I've been assigned this question as homework and have been attempting it for hours but cannot seem to get anywhere. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

An airbag of volume $40\ \mathrm L$ is inflated adiabatically through the following reaction:

$$\ce{NaN3(s) -> Na(s) + 3/2N2(g)}$$

One mole of $\ce{NaN3}$ decomposed produces an enthalpy of $-23.1\ \mathrm{kJ}$. $60\ \%$ of this energy is deposited in the gaseous product; assume the decomposition is instantaneous. $C_{\mathrm m,p}(\ce{N2})=29.12\ \ \mathrm{J\ mol^{-1}\ K^{-1}}$. When fully inflated, the pressure of the $\ce{N2}$ gas inside the airbag is $2.5\ \mathrm{atm}$.

Estimate the mass of $\ce{NaN3}$ needed to operate the airbag and state any assumptions or approximations being made.

So far, I'm only sure that I've done the following correctly:

$H=U+PV=q+w+PV$ where $q=0$ since the process is adiabatic, so $H=w+PV$

For the expansion of $\ce{N2}$ gas:

$H=0.6n(23.1\ \mathrm{kJ})=n(13.86\ \mathrm{kJ})$ where $n$ is moles of $\ce{NaN3}$

$n(13.86\ \mathrm{kJ})=U+PV$ so $U=n(13.86\ \mathrm{kJ})-(2.5\ \mathrm{atm})(40\ \mathrm L)=n(13.86\ \mathrm{kJ}-RT)$

$q=0$, $P=2.5\ \mathrm{atm}$, $V=40\ \mathrm L$ and $C_{\mathrm m,p}(\ce{N2})= 29.12\ \mathrm{J\ mol^{-1}\ K^{-1}}$

I'm not sure what else to do from here. I'd really appreciate any advice or if anyone could point me in the right direction. Thank you!


1 Answer 1


Hint: A general outline of what I think is the idea behind this problem/ This is a quick back of the envelope estimate: $$\ce{NaN3(s) -> Na(s) + 3/2N2(g)}$$ The reaction given above takes place, and releases:

$$\Delta H = -23.1\ \mathrm{kJ} $$

60% of this heat is transferred to gaseous nitrogen, and since the process is adiabatic no additional heat enters/leaves the system. All of this energy goes into expansion work

$$Q = \frac{60}{100} \times 23.1 \ \mathrm{kJ} = 13.86\ \mathrm{kJ} $$

Temperature of $\ce{N2(g)}$ (assuming initially it is at $298\ \mathrm K$) can be found using (first, assuming one mole of azide decomposes releasing 3/2 moles of nitrogen)

$$Q = nC_{\mathrm m,p} \Delta T$$

$$T_{\text{final}} = \frac{Q}{nC_{\mathrm m,p}} + T_{\text{initial}} = 615.3\ \mathrm{K}$$

Volume occupied by 3/2 moles of nitrogen at the above temperature and given pressure is

$$V = \frac{nRT}{P} = 30.3\ \mathrm{L}$$

You need another $9.7 \ \mathrm{L}$ of gas to completely fill the airbag, I am sure you can complete the calculation. I'll come back and post a full, detailed answer later.

Complete Answer

So, we need a volume of $ 40 \ \mathrm{L}$, at an unspecified temperature.

$$\frac{PV}{n_{\ce{N2}}R} = T_\text{final}$$

Additionally, $$T_{\text{final}} = \frac{Q}{n_{\ce{N2}}C_{\mathrm m,p}} + T_{\text{initial}}$$

I am assuming since the process is adiabatic no additionally heat enters/leaves the system. The way I see it, the energy generated during this decomposition would heat the nitrogen produced to some (as of yet unknown temperature), and would be used for doing expansion work. I assume everything is initially at $298 \ \mathrm{K}$

$$\frac{PV}{n_{\ce{N2}}R} = \frac{Q}{n_{\ce{N2}}C_{\mathrm m,p}} + T_{\text{initial}}$$

From the reaction stoichiometry, $n_{\ce{N2}} = \frac{2}{3}n_{\ce{NaN3}}$

Thus, the expression we are interested in is

$$\frac{PV}{(2/3)n_{\ce{NaN3}}R} = \frac{Q}{(2/3)n_{\ce{NaN3}}C_{\mathrm m,p}} + T_{\text{initial}}$$

Now, it is just a matter of plugging in appropriate values, and solving for $n$

I used,

  • $ P = 2.5 \ \mathrm{atm}$
  • $ V = 40 \ \mathrm{L}$
  • $ R = 0.0821 \ \mathrm{L \ atm \ mol^{-1} \ K^{-1}}$
  • $ Q = 0.6 \times 23.1 \times 1000 \times n_{\ce{NaN3}} \ \mathrm{kJ}$
  • $C_{\mathrm m,p} = 29.12 \ \mathrm{J\ mol^{−1}\ K^{−1}} $

Answer given below:

Solving all of this I get no. of mol of azide $\approx 1.33401 \ \mathrm{mol}$ and, no. of mol of nitrogen produced $ \approx 2.001015 \ \mathrm{mol}$. Additionally, $T_{\text{final}} = 615.307 \ \mathrm{K}$ Plugging all of this back into the ideal gas equation and solving for volume at the given pressure gives me $40.4\ \mathrm{L}$


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