I have heard people go so far as to say that the "driving force" of a reaction is the formation of the precipitate. Why is this so? Whilst the process is almost certainly exothermic (I think - please clarify) the entropic effects are surely unfavorable.

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If the reaction product is removed from the phase (liquid solution for example) in which the equilibrium reaction is occurring, significant amount of product can be obtained even if the equilibrium constant for the forward reaction is relatively small ($K<1$).

Aside from precipitation, product could also be removed by vaporization, with subsequent condensation (distillation) to collect the product. Anything that reduces the product concentration in the phase where the equillibrium occurs favors the forward reaction.

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