Notes on General Chemistry
Updated Monday, August 16, 2010 3:51 PM

Copyright © 2008 Dan Dill (
Department of Chemistry, Boston University, Boston MA 02215


Exceptional Books


A printed, coil-bound version of the complete set of notes on general chemistry at the introductory college level is now available: Notes on General Chemistry, 3e, by Dan Dill (W. H. Freeman and Company, 2008, ISBN 1-4292-2705-2, 402 pages). Here are PDF selections from the printed version. The notes can be ordered from the publisher warehouse, at 888-330-8477.

Cover of Notes on General Chemistry, 3e


What's new or updated here:

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The notes treat the following topics.

Origin of atoms
Quantum aspects of light, atoms, and molecules
Properties of gases

Chemical equilibrium
Acid-base equilibria
Solubility equilibria




  • The Stuff of Chemistry (20 pages) discusses atoms and atomic theory; the mole concept; and chemical compounds, chemical equations and their stoichiometry.

Origin of atoms

  • Balancing nuclear reactions, updated 10/18/2007, PDF Logo 19 KB / 1 page, show one way to identify the missing component of a nuclear reaction, using the requirement that the total atomic number Z, mass number A, and total charge Q must balance between reactants and products.
  • Energy change in nuclear reactions , updated 10/24/2005, PDF Logo 37 KB / 2 pages, discusses how to calculate the energy of an atom relative to its free electrons, protons and neutrons, and thereby the energy change in a nuclear reaction. The trend of nuclear binding energy per nucleon accounts for the peak at iron in the relative cosmic abundance of the elements.

Quantum aspects of light, atoms, and molecules

  • Road map of quantum aspects of general chemistry, updated 10/24/2007, PDF Logo 2 pages, 23 KB.
  • Atoms, light, and their interaction, updated 1/22/2008, PDF Logo 94 KB / 12 pages, presents the quantum nature of atoms and how they interact with light.
  • Quantum aspects of light and matter (34 pages) introduces key features of the interaction of light with matter and how their interaction is used to sort out what is going on inside matter.
  • Quantum aspects of atoms, updated 10/4/2004, PDF Logo 912 KB / 13 pages, explores the wavefunctions and relative energies of electrons in atoms.
  • Wavefunction tomography: One-electrom atom, updated 6/20/2006. It is a challenge to visualize three dimensional wavefunctions. One way to do it is to look at the wavefunction values on a plane, analogous to anatomical slices provided in medical computer aided tomography. Try your hand at identifying particular s, p or d wavefunctions of an electron in a hydrogen atom.
  • Why atoms don't collapse, updated 11/19/2004, PDF Logo 60 KB / 5 pages, explores how the balance of kinetic and potential energy in an atom keeps its electrons from collapsing into the nucleus.
  • Fermi holes and Fermi heaps (14 pages) . Many-electron wavefunctions must change sign when the labels on any two electrons are interchanged. This property is called antisymmetry, and its essential consequence is that electrons either stay out of one another's way, forming what is called a Fermi hole, or clump together, forming what is called a Fermi heap. Since electrons repel one another electrically, Fermi holes and Fermi heaps has drastic effects on the energy of many-electron atoms. The most profound result is the periodic properties of the elements.
  • Animation of carbon atom 1s2py and 2px2py Fermi holes and Fermi heaps, updated 5/8/2003
  • Molecular shapes, updated 3/17/2004, PDF Logo 233 KB / 22 pages, are notes by Professor Golger, kindly provided by him from his general chemistry lab manual, on Lewis structures, formal charge, molecular shapes and dipole moments.
  • Peering Through the Gates of Time, an interview, by Dennis Overbye of the New York Times, with physicist John Archibald Wheeler about the "great smoky dragon" that is the quantum nature of reality. You may need to register (free) to gain access to the article.
  • Discussing the Nature of Reality, Between Buffets, a report, by Dennis Overbye of the New York Times, on the March 15, 2002, conference at Princeton on the "secrets of the universe," organized to honor the 90th birthday of Dr. John Archibald Wheeler, the Princeton and University of Texas physicist known for his poetic characterizations of the mysteries of the universe. You may need to register (free) to gain access to the article.
  • Atomic wavefunction family album, updated version of Chapter 3.1 of Dill, Notes on General Chemistry, 2e (revised), W. H. Freeman, 2007, ISBN 1-4292-1443-0. PDF Logo 103 KB / 8 pages.
  • Visual method to assign formal charge, new 9/7/2008. PDF Logo 34 KB / 2 pages.
  • SOE: Symmetry - Overlap - Energy, new 12/3/2007. Atoms interact by overlap of their atomic orbitals (AO's). The relative symmetry, amount of overlap, and relative energies determine which AO's interact most strongly to form chemical bonds, PDF Logo 224 KB / 7 pages.
  • Recipe for π bonds in polyatomic molecules, revised 12/20/2007. Bonding in polyatomic molecules (molecules with more than two atoms) is treated in two parts. The first part accounts for the connectivity of the atoms, that is the bonds between the atoms. This is treated as a framework of (localized) sigma bonds built from overlapping hybridized AO's. The second part accounts for multiple bonds. This is treated as a framework of π MO's built from overlapping unhybridized AO's. PDF Logo 114 KB / 5 pages.
  • Recipe for molecular orbitals in polyatomic molecules, new 12/10/2008. PDF Logo 670 KB / 24 pages.
  • Esterfication, updated 2/6/2008. Acetic acid reacts with methyl alcohol to form the ester methyl acetate and water. The reaction can be analyzed by following the flow off electron pairs to make non-zero formal charges zero. The steps in the process are shown on successive pages of the PDF. PDF Logo 697 KB / 10 pages. Professor John Snyder, who teaches Intensive Organic Chemistry CH211/2 here at Boston University commented that in the rearrangement of the reaction intermediate formed by nucleophilic attach of acetic acid by methanol, the step showing C with five bonds (pentavalent) is better represented as the simultaneous ("concerted") shift of charge from one O to another, maintaining four bonds to C throughout. This alternative picture is shown in the alternative sequence shown at PDF. PDF Logo 686 KB / 10 pages. With respect to either sequence, please keep in mind that in reality all of the electron movements take place together. We separate the electron movements into steps as a device to systematically sort out how the products are formed from the initial reaction intermediate. Such "electron pushing' is a very powerful tool for predicting reaction outcomes. you will learn much more about electron pushing should you take organic chemistry.


Thermodynamics, electrochemistry and kinetics

  • Diagrams illustrating the relationship between energy change, ΔE, and enthalpy change, ΔH, according to whether (1) products have more or less energy than reactants, and (2) work is done on the system or on the surroundings, updated 2/20/2006, PDF Logo 24 KB / 1 page.
  • Units of free energy and electrochemical cell potentials, 3/15/2006, PDF Logo 42 KB / 3 pages. The usual textbook expression, ΔG = R T ln(Q/K) should in fact be ΔG = mol R T ln(Q/K), since ΔG is an extensive quantity. These notes trace the origin of the missing unit "mol".
  • Counting distinguishable arrangements, updated 3/14/2006, PDF Logo 62 KB / 7 pages, explores quantifying molecular and energy dispersal, and the temperature dependence of entropy change.
  • Examples of spontaneity in terms of increased spatial arrangements, 3/8/2007, PDF Logo 51 KB / 6 pages, illustrates how spontaneous changes we are familiar with trace to an increase in the number of arrangements of particles. In this way the formula for osmotic pressure is derived.
  • Half life simulation using coin flips, updated 10/21/2004, PDF Logo 36 KB/3 pages.
  • Half-life calculations, new 10/18/2007, PDF Logo 39 KB/3 pages.
  • Study questions on Nernst equation, new 4/10/2008, PDF Logo 24 KB/2 pages.
  • Blue bottle reaction, new 4/15/2009, PDF Logo 162 KB / 2 pages, is PowerPoint slides making the connection between the blue bottle reaction and oxidation-reduction coupling in aerobic metabolism.

Chemical equilibrium

  • Chemical equilibrium calculations, new 4/3/2009, PDF Logo 144 KB / 4 pages, is PowerPoint slides illustrating typical calculations.
  • Buffer action challenge question, new 3/30/2009, PDF Logo 32 KB / 3 pages, illustrate the different effect on pH adding strong acid or strong base to a buffer and to water.
  • Acid-base equilibria (20 pages)
  • Acid-base titration recipes, updated 1/19/2002, PDF Logo 149 KB / 4 pages, is a summary collection of how to do acid-base equilibrium calculations, as developed in the previous supplement. These recipes will be most helpful if you are able to derive them on your own, using the methods developed in the previous supplement.
  • Solubility of ionic solids in water, new 10/18/2007, PDF Logo 43 KB / 5 pages, explains the factors that determine whether an ionic solid is soluble in water, and collects the results into a set of solubility rules.
  • Energy pathway of an ionic solid forming an aqueous solution, updated 10/04/2007, PDF Logo 20 KB / 1 page.

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Updated Monday, August 16, 2010 3:51 PM
Dan Dill (