Difference Between Reversible and Irreversible

Reversible vs Irreversible

Reversible and irreversible are types of chemical reactions that take place in and around us in our daily lives. It was earlier believed that all chemical reactions were irreversible until French scientist Berthollet proved that some chemical reactions were reversible. There are many differences in reversible and irreversible chemical reactions that will be highlighted in this article.

Chemical reactions are represented with the help of chemical equations that contain an arrow in between that tells us whether the reaction is reversible or irreversible. (→) is the way an irreversible reaction is represented while (↔) is the sign in between the reaction that tells us that the reaction is reversible. The reactions between two products that result in new products and cannot be converted back into original products are known as irreversible reactions while reactions in which final products can be converted back to the original products at the left of the chemical equation are termed as reversible reactions.

When you breathe on the inside of a glass window when it is cold outside, a mist appears. This is nothing but condensed water vapor that evaporates after some time on its own. Thus it is a reversible process. When you mix salt or sugar in water, a solution is formed which is different from water and sugar, but when you heat up the solution so that water evaporates, you can get back sugar or salt thus proving that the reaction is reversible and you can get back the original products of the reaction.

Rusting of your metallic car bumper is an example of irreversible reaction as a totally new product which is the metal oxide is formed and you cannot get back the original product of the reaction. Similarly when you burn a piece of paper, you are left with ash and smoke that are different from paper and you cannot get back the original product that was paper. This is thus an irreversible reaction.

In brief:

Difference Between Reversible and Irreversible

• In a reversible reaction, reactants react to form new products but you can get back original products or reactants. On the other hand, in case of irreversible reactions, it is impossible to get back to original reactants.

• In reversible reactions, the changes take place very slowly through a series of intermediate steps in which the system is in the equilibrium state while there is no such equilibrium state in the case of irreversible reactions.