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I'm having a hard time distinguishing which constants to use in the correct situations. When do we use R, , , 3R, and 4R? Are there certain ones we can ignore because they never come up, or could we be asked to use any of them on our exam?
we use 3/2 when working with monoatomic molecule like Ne and constant volume and 5/2 for a monoatomic molecule constant pressure. Add 1 to both of them when using a diatomic molecule like H2. We don't need to know anything past monoatomic molecules on the test
Also, an additional tip to help you better understand which relation to use is knowing the relationship between Cp,m and Cv,m: Cp,m= Cv,m + R. Keeping in mind that molar heat capacity increases with molecular complexity, and knowing that you simply have to add R to the molar head capacity at constant volume to find molar heat capacity at constant pressure will help you remember what relation to use.
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