Condition in the course of a reversible chemical reaction in which no net change in the amounts of reactants and products occurs: Products are reverting to reactants at the same rate as reactants are forming products. For practical purposes, the reaction under those conditions is completed. Expressed in terms of the law of mass action, the reaction rate to form products is equal to the reaction rate to re-form reactants. The ratio of the reaction rate constants (i.e., of the amounts of reactants and products, each raised to the proper power), defines the equilibrium constant. Changing the conditions of temperature or pressure changes the reaction's equilibrium; a high temperature or pressure may be used to “push” a reaction that at ordinary conditions makes little product. See also H.-L. Le Châtelier.
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Condition in which the net force acting on a particle is zero. A body in equilibrium experiences no acceleration and, unless disturbed by an outside force, will remain in equilibrium indefinitely. A stable equilibrium is one in which small, externally induced displacements from that state produce forces that tend to oppose the displacement and return the body to equilibrium. An unstable equilibrium is one in which the least departures produce forces tending to increase the displacement. A brick lying on the floor is in stable equilibrium, while a ball bearing balanced on a knife-edge is in unstable equilibrium.
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