oscillating reaction

Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

A type of chemical reaction in which the concentrations of the products and reactants change periodically, either with time or with position in the reacting medium. Thus, the concentration of a component may increase with time to a maximum, decrease to a minimum, then increase again, and so on, continuing the oscillation over a period of time. Systems are also known in which spirals and other patterns spread through the reacting medium, demonstrating a periodic spatial variation. Oscillating chemical reactions have certain features in common. They all occur under conditions far from chemical equilibrium and all involve autocatalysis, i.e. a product of a reaction step acts as a catalyst for that step. This autocatalysis drives the oscillation by a process of positive feedback. Moreover, oscillating chemical reactions are associated with the phenomenon known as bistability. In this, a reaction may be in a steady-state condition, with reactants flowing into a reaction zone while products are flowing out of it. Under these conditions, the concentrations in the reaction zone may not change with time, although the reaction is not in a state of chemical equilibrium. Bistable systems have two possible stable steady states. Interaction with an additional substance in the reaction medium causes the system to oscillate between the states as the concentrations change. Oscillating chemical reactions are thought to occur in a number of biochemical processes. For example, they occur in glycolysis, in which ATP is produced by enzyme-catalysed reactions. They are also known to regulate the rhythm of the heartbeat. Most have highly complex reaction mechanisms. See also Lotka-Volterra mechanism; brusselator; oregonator; chaotic reaction.

Subjects: Chemistry.

Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.