Skip to main content
Chemistry LibreTexts

10: Solids, Liquids, and Phase Transitions

  • Page ID
    41487
  • Gas, liquid, and solid are known as the three states of matter or material, but each of solid and liquid states may exist in one or more forms. Thus, another term is required to describe the various forms, and the term phase is used. Each distinct form is called a phase, but the concept of phase defined as a homogeneous portion of a system, extends beyond a single material, because a phase may also involve several materials. A solid has a definite shape and volume. A liquid has a definite volume but it takes the shape of a container whereas a gas fills the entire volume of a container. You already know that diamond and graphite are solids made up of the element carbon. They are two phases of carbon, but both are solids.Solids are divided into subclasses of amorphous (or glassy) solids and crystalline solids. Arrangements of atoms or molecules in crystalline solids are repeated regularly over a very long range of millions of atoms, but their arrangements in amorphous solids are somewhat random or short range of say some tens or hundreds of atoms. In general, there is only one liquid phase of a material. However, there are two forms of liquid helium, each have some unique properties. Thus, the two forms are different (liquid) phases of helium. At a definite temperature and pressure, the two phases co-exist.

    • 10.1: Bulk Properties of Liquids - Molecular Interpretation
      The state of a substance depends on the balance between the kinetic energy of the individual particles (molecules or atoms) and the intermolecular forces. The kinetic energy keeps the molecules apart and moving around, and is a function of the temperature of the substance and the intermolecular forces try to draw the particles together.
    • 10.2: Intermolecular Forces - Origins in Molecular Structure
      Molecules in liquids are held to other molecules by intermolecular interactions, which are weaker than the intramolecular interactions that hold molecules and polyatomic ions together. The three major types of intermolecular interactions are dipole–dipole interactions, London dispersion forces (these two are often referred to collectively as van der Waals forces), and hydrogen bonds.
    • 10.3: Intermolecular Forces in Liquids
      Surface tension, capillary action, and viscosity are unique properties of liquids that depend on the nature of intermolecular interactions. Surface tension is the energy required to increase the surface area of a liquid. Surfactants are molecules that reduce the surface tension of polar liquids like water. Capillary action is the phenomenon in which liquids rise up into a narrow tube called a capillary. The viscosity of a liquid is its resistance to flow.
    • 10.4: Phase Equilibrium
      Because the molecules of a liquid are in constant motion and possess a wide range of kinetic energies, at any moment some fraction of them has enough energy to escape from the surface of the liquid to enter the gas or vapor phase. This process, called vaporization or evaporation, generates a vapor pressure above the liquid. Molecules in the gas phase can collide with the liquid surface and reenter the liquid via condensation.
    • 10.5: Phase Transitions
      Fusion, vaporization, and sublimation are endothermic processes, whereas freezing, condensation, and deposition are exothermic processes. Changes of state are examples of phase changes, or phase transitions. All phase changes are accompanied by changes in the energy of a system. Changes from a more-ordered state to a less-ordered state (such as a liquid to a gas) are endothermic. Changes from a less-ordered state to a more-ordered state (such as a liquid to a solid) are always exothermic.
    • 10.6: Phase Diagrams
      The states of matter exhibited by a substance under different temperatures and pressures can be summarized graphically in a phase diagram, which is a plot of pressure versus temperature. Phase diagrams contain discrete regions corresponding to the solid, liquid, and gas phases. The solid and liquid regions are separated by the melting curve of the substance, and the liquid and gas regions are separated by its vapor pressure curve, which ends at the critical point.
    • 10.E: Solids, Liquids, and Phase Transitions (Exercises)
      These are homework exercises to accompany the Textmap created for "Principles of Modern Chemistry" by Oxtoby et al.