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10.4: Combined Gas Law

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    Hot air balloons require gas law and buoyancy calculations
    Figure 10.4.1

    In order to design hot air balloons like these, engineers must make gas law calculations, buoyancy calculations, and have knowledge of the density of air at different altitudes.

    Combined Gas Law

    For a given quantity of gas, it has been found experimentally that the volume of the gas is inversely proportional to the pressure applied to the gas when the temperature is kept constant. That is,

    V∝(1/P) at a constant T.

    For example, if the pressure on a gas is doubled, the volume is reduced to half its original volume. This relationship is known as Boyle’s Law. Boyle’s Law can also be written PV=constant at constant T. As long as the temperature and the amount of gas remains constant, any variation in the pressure or volume will result in a change in the other one, keeping the product at a constant value.

    Pressures are given in a multitude of units. We've already discussed Pascals, and we know that another unit for pressure is the atmosphere (1 atm = 101.3 x 105 Pa). The third commonly used pressure unit is the torr (symbol: Torr). 760 torr is 1 atm, but 1 torr is also the increase in pressure necessary to cause liquid mercury to rise by 1 mm. For that reason, torr is also commonly referred to as "millimeters mercury." Another pressure unit commonly used in our everyday world is psi, or pounds per square inch, though neither psi nor torr are SI units.

    Temperature also affects the volume of a gas. Jacques Charles found that when the pressure is held constant, the volume of a gas increases in direct proportion to its absolute temperature. This relationship became known as Charles’ Law.

    V∝T at constant P.

    A third gas law, known as Gay-Lussac’s Law, states that at constant volume, the pressure of a gas is directly proportional to the absolute temperature.

    P∝T at constant V.

    The kinetic-molecular theory assumes that there are no attractive forces between the molecules and that the volume of the molecules themselves is negligible compared to the volume of the gas. At high temperatures and low pressures, these assumptions are true and the gases follow the gas laws very accurately. However, these three laws are true only as long as the pressure and density are relatively low. When a gas is compressed to the point that the molecular volume is a significant portion of the gas volume, the gas laws begin to fail. Similarly, when gases become so dense that the molecules begin to attract each other, the gas laws also fail. These changes are expressed in the Van der Waals equations.

    These three gas laws can be combined into the Combined Gas Law as follows:

    PV∝T or PV/T=constant

    A commonly used form of the combined gas law states that, for a sample of gas, the ratio of the product of the original pressure and volume to the original temperature will equal the ratio of the product of a new pressure and volume to the new temperature, or


    This equation is useful when operating with the same sample of gas, and given five of the variables, to solve for the sixth.

    When solving problems with temperature in them, the calculations require that temperatures be in Kelvin. Be careful to convert to Kelvin when given temperatures in Celsius.

    Example 10.4.1

    A sample of gas has a volume of 2.00 L and a pressure of 0.750 kPa when its temperature is 25°C. If the volume is expanded to 4.00 L and the pressure reduced to 0.500 kPa, what must the temperature become?


    The relationships between volume and temperature and pressure and temperature expressed in the gas laws are only true when the kinetic energy of the molecules are directly proportional to the temperature. Therefore, when dealing with all gas laws, the temperatures must be expressed in Kelvin.


    P1=0.750 kPa P2=0.500 kPa

    V1=2.00 L V2=4.00 L

    T1=298 K T2=?

    T2=P2V2T1/P1V1=(0.500 kPa)(4.00 L)(298 K)/(0.750 kPa)(2.00 L)=397 K

    Figure 10.4.2

    Colorful helium-filled balloons add such a happy feeling to any special occasion but have you ever lost one of these balloons? It is so sad to watch it as it floats up to the sky. Did you ever wonder about how high it will go? Where will it travel to? Will it pop or sink to the ground at some point? Play around with the simulation below to learn more about the combined gas laws and find out what happens to a runaway balloon:

    Interactive Element


    • For a given quantity of gas, it has been found experimentally that the volume of the gas is inversely proportional to the pressure applied to the gas when the temperature is kept constant.
    • Boyle’s Law is V∝1/P at constant T.
    • Charles’ Law is V∝T at constant P.
    • Gay-Lussac’s law states that at constant volume, the pressure of a gas is directly proportional to the absolute temperature, P∝T at constant V.
    • These three gas laws can be combined into a so-called combined gas law, P1V1/T1=P2V2/T2.


    1. A sample of gas has a volume of 800. mL at -23.0°C and 300. Torr. What would the volume of the gas be at 227.0°C and 600. Torr?
    2. 500.0 L of gas are prepared at 0.921 atm pressure and 200.0°C. The gas is placed into a tank under high pressure. When the tank cools to 20.0°C, the pressure is 30.0 atm. What is the volume of the gas under these conditions?
    3. What is the volume of gas at 2.00 atm and 200.0 K if its original volume was 300. L at 0.250 atm and 400.0 K?

    Explore More

    Use this resource to answer the questions that follow.

    1. What must be held constant for the combined gas law to be true?
    2. What happens to the combined gas law if temperature, pressure, or volume are held constant?

    Additional Resources

    Real World Application: Cook Food In A Flash


    Study Guide: Fluids Study Guide

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