All GRE Subject Test: Chemistry Resources
Example Question #22 : Catalysts, Transition States, And Activation Energy
For any given chemical reaction, one can draw an energy diagram. Energy diagrams depict the energy levels of the different steps in a reaction, while also indicating the net change in energy and giving clues to relative reaction rate.
Below, a reaction diagram is shown for a reaction that a scientist is studying in a lab. A student began the reaction the evening before, but the scientist is unsure as to the type of the reaction. He cannot find the student’s notes, except for the reaction diagram below.
Upon further review, the scientist realizes that the reaction in question involved formation of a carbocation that quickly reacted again to form stable products. At which point would we most likely find this carbocation in the above diagram?
Point 3 is where you would expect to find a relatively stable intermediate. An intermediate is more stable than a transition state, but not as stable as the original reactants and final products. Stability is inversely proportional to energy, thus we are looking for the point that is between the highest and lowest energies in the reaction. By this logic, point 1 is the reactants, 2 and 4 are transition states, 3 is a stable intermediate, and 5 is the products.