What Is Dalton's Law of Partial Pressures?

Pressures in a Gas Mixture

Dalton's Law of Partial Pressures: Air at sea level.
Dalton's Law of Partial Pressures: Air at sea level. Max Dodge

Dalton's law of partial pressures is used to determine the individual pressures of each gas in a mixture of gases.

Dalton's Law of Partial Pressures

The total pressure of a mixture of gases is equal to the sum of the partial pressures of the component gases.
PressureTotal = PressureGas 1 + PressureGas 2 + PressureGas 3 + ... PressureGas n
An alternative of this equation can be used to determine the partial pressure of an individual gas in the mixture.
If the total pressure is known and the number of moles of each component gas are known, the partial pressure can be computed using the formula:
Px = PTotal ( nx / nTotal )
where
Px = partial pressure of gas x PTotal = total pressure of all gases nx = number of moles of gas x nTotal = number of moles of all gases This relationship applies to ideal gases, but can be used in real gases with very little error.

Deviations From Dalton's Law

Dalton's law is an ideal gas law. It is only an approximation for real gases. The deviation from the law increases with increasing pressure. At high pressure, the volume occupied by a gas becomes significant when compared to the free space between particles. At high pressure, intermolecular forces between particles become more of a consideration.

Sources

  • Dalton, J. (1802). "Essay IV. On the expansion of elastic fluids by heat." Memoirs of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester, vol. 5, pt. 2, pp. 595–602.
  • Silberberg, Martin S. (2009). Chemistry: the molecular nature of matter and change (5th ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill. p. 206. ISBN 9780073048598.