# How to calculate free energy

The concept of free energy is essential in thermodynamics and chemistry, as it allows us to predict the spontaneity of chemical reactions and understand how systems perform work at the molecular level. This article will guide you through the process of calculating free energy based on temperature, enthalpy, and entropy––a valuable skill for students and researchers alike!

**1. Understanding Free Energy**

Free energy (abbreviated as ‘G’) is a thermodynamic potential that represents the maximum reversible work obtainable from a system. It combines the effects of both enthalpy (heat energy) and entropy (the system’s disorder) to determine whether a reaction will happen spontaneously or not. There are two main types of free energy equations: Gibbs free energy (G) – which is most commonly used – and Helmholtz free energy (A).

**2. Gibbs Free Energy**

The Gibbs free energy change (ΔG) determines the spontaneity or direction of a chemical reaction.

The equation to calculate ΔG is:

ΔG = ΔH – TΔS

– ΔG: Change in Gibbs free energy

– ΔH: Change in enthalpy (heat absorbed/released by the reaction)

– T: Temperature (in Kelvin)

– ΔS: Change in entropy (change in disorder)

If ΔG < 0, the reaction is spontaneous.

If ΔG > 0, the reaction is non-spontaneous.

If ΔG = 0, the system is in equilibrium.

**3. Calculating Enthalpy and Entropy**

For most reactions, enthalpy and entropy changes can be found in tables or calculated using standard values.

**To find the change in enthalpy (ΔH):**

1. Determine each substance’s enthalpy in the reaction.

2. Multiply the number of moles (coefficients from the balanced reaction) by their respective substance’s enthalpy.

3. Subtract the sum of reactants’ enthalpies from the sum of products’ enthalpies.

**To find the change in entropy (ΔS):**

1. Determine each substance’s entropy in the reaction.

2. Multiply the number of moles (coefficients from the balanced reaction) by their respective substance’s entropy.

3. Subtract the sum of reactants’ entropies from the sum of products’ entropies.

**4. Calculating Free Energy**

After determining ΔH and ΔS, plug those values, along with the temperature in Kelvin, into the Gibbs free energy equation:

ΔG = ΔH – TΔS

This result will indicate the spontaneity or direction of the chemical reaction.

**Conclusion**

Understanding how to calculate free energy is critical to predicting and interpreting chemical reactions’ spontaneity and behavior. By learning how to determine changes in enthalpy and entropy, you can master this skill and gain valuable insight into countless processes in chemistry and thermodynamics.