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ki·net·ics [ki néttiks, kī néttiks] noun (takes a singular verb) 1. physics Same as dynamics 2. branch of chemistry: the branch of chemistry that studies rates of reactions
^ definition #2. Example where it matters as a matter of life & death: explosives.
In chemistry Kinetics is when we talk about the rate of reactions. A reaction equation like A + B --> C is useful, because it tells us what process is possible, but it doesn't tell us how quickly it will happen, or whether it is likely to happen, or equally likely to happen in the opposite direction (C-->B+A). When we study kinetics, we look at the possibility that both a reaction and its opposite are going on at the same time, but they may not be occuring at the same rate. So kinetics of a reaction tell us how fast it's going to proceed under specified conditions. When we know the kinetics of a forward and backward reaction, we can guess how successful our attempts to produce a certain compound (like C) will be under specific conditions, or whether we will have to apply a stress (like pressure, heat, or the addition of more of a reactant, or the removal of a product) in order to push the reaction toward a particular outcome.
The area of chemistry that studies reaction rates is called Kinetics.
Chemical kinetics, also known as reaction kinetics, is the study of rates of chemical processes. Chemical kinetics includes investigations of how different experimental conditions can influence the speed of a chemical reaction and yield information about the reaction's mechanism and transition states, as well as the construction of mathematical models that can describe the characteristics of a chemical reaction. In 1864, Peter Waage and Cato Guldberg pioneered the development of chemical kinetics by formulating the law of mass action, which states that the speed of a chemical reaction is proportional to the quantity of the reacting substances.