Consider the following reaction at 500 K:
CH_{3}NO_{2}(
g) products
Suppose the following data were measured:
time (s) 
[CH_{3}NO_{2}] (mol/L) 

0 
0.200 

300 
0.145 

600 
0.105 

900 
0.076 

1200 
0.055 
How fast is the reaction proceeding?
Or, more precisely asked, what is the rate of the reaction?
According to the definition
Rates at different times:
Between 0 and 300 s
Between 300 and 600 s
Between 600 and 900 s
Between 900 and 1200 s
The rate continually decreases as the reaction proceeds.
Note on the sign of the rate: mathematically, the sign of the rate is negative
when based on reactants (the change in reactants,
[ ] will always be negative since the amount of reactants is decreasing).
When the rate is determined based on products, the rate is positive in sign
(the amount of products is increasing).
Frequently, the sign of the rate is ignored and inferred by context.
Rates also can be different when found from different chemical species because
of stoichiometry. The general rate is found by dividing the specific rate
by the stoichiometric coefficient.
Note that the rates are different. Is this because of experimental problems?
Plot the data:
The definition of rate is a slope (indicated as dashed lines). The rate
can be found using either the decrease in concentration of reactants (circles)
or the increase in concentration of products (squares).
Clearly, the slope changes with time  consistent with what was found
earlier.
How do we deal with this?
Consider the general reaction:
A + B + C + ... products
For this reaction:
Rate = k[A]^{m}[B]^{n}[C]^{p}...
This is called the Rate Law for the reaction.
k = rate constant
m = order of reaction in reactant A
n = order of reaction in reactant B
p = order of reaction in reactant C
The total order of reaction is the sum of the orders of
reaction for each reactant
total order = m + n + p + ...
Properties of Rate Laws:
Orders of reaction need not be integers
Orders of reaction need not be positive
Catalyst concentrations may be part of a rate law
Rate Laws are constant at any given temperature
Rate laws must be found experimentally; there is no information in a balanced reaction about the correct form of the rate law.
2 H_{2}(g) + 2 NO(g)
N_{2}(g) + 2 H_{2}O(g)
The experimental rate law is found to be
Rate = k[H_{2}][NO]^{2}
What are the orders of reaction in each
reactant? What is the total order of reaction?
The rate of a reaction is found just at the beginning of the reaction. This
is done for several, carefully chosen, concentrations of reactants. Then,
by application of the rate law at each concentration, the orders of reaction
and the rate constant can be found.
Consider the reaction:
A + B products
Conduct three experiments
[A]_{1}, [B]_{1}, measure Rate_{1}
[A]_{1}, [B]_{2}, measure Rate_{2}
[A]_{2}, [B]_{1}, measure Rate_{3}
From the definition of a rate law:
Rate_{1} = k[A]_{1}^{m}[B]_{ 1}^{n}
Rate_{2} = k[A]_{1}^{m}[B]_{2}^{ n}
Divide the two rates:

Rate_{1}, Rate_{2}, [B]_{1}, and [B]_{
2} are known so simple algebra gives the order of reaction in reactant B
Similarly:
so the order in reactant A is found.
Finally, the rate constant is found by
using any (or, better, all) of the experiments and the values
of m and n just determined.