Hess's Law

Hess’s law of heat summation, rule first enunciated by Germain Henri Hess, a Swiss-born Russian chemist, in 1840, stating that the heat absorbed or evolved in any chemical reaction is a fixed quantity and is independent of the path of the reaction or the number of steps taken to obtain the reaction.

Hess’s law is a consequence of the first law of thermodynamics and need not be considered a separate thermodynamic law; in thermochemistry, however, it retains its identity because of its importance as the basis for calculating heats of reactions. Hess’s law is exemplified by the calculation of the heat of formation of carbon dioxide from its elements (carbon [C] and oxygen [O]). This reaction is represented by

C(c + O2(g -->Co2)(g))

In accordance with Hess’s law, the heat of formation of carbon dioxide is the same, whether it occurs in one reaction as represented by the equation above or in two steps as represented by the equations given below:

C(c + 1/2O2(g -->Co2)(g))

CO(g) + 1/2 O2 -->Co2(g)

The sum of the above equations is:

C(c) + O2(g)-->CO2(g)