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Steinfeld, Jeffrey, and William Green, 5.68J Kinetics of Chemical Reactions, Spring 2003. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare), (Accessed 09 Jul, 2010). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Kinetics of Chemical Reactions

Spring 2003

A model of the surface of a turbulent premixed laboratory methane flame. (Image courtesy of the Center for Computational Sciences and Engineering at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.)

Course Highlights

This course features lecture notes with extensive text plus supplemental readings on computer modeling.

Course Description

This course deals with the experimental and theoretical aspects of chemical reaction kinetics, including transition-state theories, molecular beam scattering, classical techniques, quantum and statistical mechanical estimation of rate constants, pressure-dependence and chemical activation, modeling complex reacting mixtures, and uncertainty/sensitivity analyses. Reactions in the gas phase, liquid phase, and on surfaces are discussed with examples drawn from atmospheric, combustion, industrial, catalytic, and biological chemistry.

Technical Requirements

CHEMKIN® software is required to complete some of the assignments in this course. Gaussian software  is required to complete some of the assignments in this course.

*Some translations represent previous versions of courses.



Steinfeld, J. I., J. J. Francisco, and W. L. Hase. Chemical Kinetics and Dynamics. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1998. ISBN: 9780137371235.

This text will be supplemented by journal articles and other handouts.


5.62 or 10.37 or 10.65.

Course Project

By Session #14, you must decide upon a project, in consultation with one of the professors. The project will represent a significant part of your grade for this course, and is one of the best learning opportunities. It is acceptable to work in groups of 2 or 3, 2 is preferred. If you have an idea for a project and would like some others to work with you on it, please let us know and we will help you to find some partners.


1-4 Elementary Kinetics
Elementary Steps, Steady State Approximation, Transform Methods
Numerical Solution of Differential Equations
Use of CHEMKIN® and Similar Software
Literature Sources of Thermo, Kinetics
Problem set 1 due in session 3
5-8 Experimental Kinetics
Experimental Techniques
Signal-to-noise Estimation
Dynamic Range
Data Analysis
Problem set 2 due in session 7
9 Review of Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics Problem set 3 due
10 In Class Exam  
11-14 Reaction Rate Theory
Potential Energy Surfaces
Introduction to Quantum Chemistry
Reaction Paths
Transition State Theory
RRKM Theory
Relation to Quantum Scattering
Pressure Dependence: Fall-off, Chemical-activation
Choose and review topics for semester project
15-16 Heterogeneous Reactions Problem set 4 due in session 15
17-18 Practical Methods for Predicting Kinetics and Thermodynamics
Functional Groups
Group Additivity, Reaction Families
19-22 Handling Large Kinetic Models
Sensitivity Analysis, Uncertainty Propagation
Kinetic Model Reduction
Range of Validity of Kinetic Models
Computer Construction of Chemical Kinetic Models
Example: Atmospheric Chemistry Models
Problem set 5 due in session 21
23-24 Reactions in Solution
Liquid Phase Reactions
Solvent Effects
25-26 Catalysis
Homogeneous and Heterogeneous Catalysis
Catalysis by Acids/Bases, Enzymes, Organometallics, Metals, Oxides
27-28 Presentation and Review of Semester Projects   Tell A Friend