D36.2 Trimolecular Elementary Reactions

An trimolecular (or termolecular) elementary reaction involves the simultaneous collision of three atoms or molecules. Trimolecular reactions are very unlikely to be elementary because the probability of three particles colliding simultaneously is less than 0.1% of the probability of two particles colliding. When a reaction involves three reactant molecules, it is much more likely for it to proceed via a multi-step mechanism involving unimolecular and/or bimolecular elementary reaction steps.

While there are rare examples of trimolecular elementary reaction occurring under certain conditions, in general, the individual steps in reaction mechanisms for gas-phase reactions are restricted to unimolecular and bimolecular reactions.

Exercise: Rate Law for an Elementary Reaction

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Chemistry 109 Fall 2021 by John Moore, Jia Zhou, and Etienne Garand is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.