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Physical Properties of Matter

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Physical Properties of Matter

Vocabulary

  • physical property : Property of matter that can be measured or observed without matter changing to an entirely different substance.

Introduction

Both of these men are skiing, but the man on the left is skiing on snow while the man on the right is skiing on sand. Snow and sand are both kinds of matter, but they have different properties. What are some ways snow and sand differ? One difference is the temperature at which they melt. Snow melts at 0°C, whereas sand melts at about 1600°C! The temperature at which something melts is its melting point. Melting point is just one of many physical properties of matter.

What Are Physical Properties?

Physical properties of matter are properties that can be measured or observed without matter changing to an entirely different substance. Physical properties are typically things you can detect with your senses. For example, they may be things that you can see, hear, smell, or feel.

What differences between snow and sand can you detect with your senses?    You can see that snow and sand have a different color. You can also feel that snow is softer than sand. Both color and hardness are physical properties of matter.

Additional Physical Properties

In addition to these properties, other physical properties of matter include the state of matter. States of matter include liquid, solid, and gaseous states. For example at 20°C, coal exists as a solid and water exists as a liquid. Additional examples of physical properties include:

  • odor
  • boiling point
  • ability to conduct heat
  • ability to conduct electricity
  • ability to dissolve in other substances

Some of these properties are illustrated in the Figures below , below , below , and below

The coolant that is added to a car radiator also has a lower freezing point than water. Why is this physical property useful?  When coolant is added to water in a car radiator, it lowers the freezing point of the water. This prevents the water in the radiator from freezing when the temperature drops below 0°C, which is the freezing point of pure water.

Summary

  • Physical properties of matter are properties that can be measured or observed without matter changing to an entirely different substance. Physical properties are typically things you can detect with your senses.
  • Examples of physical properties of matter include melting point, color, hardness, state of matter, odor, and boiling point.

Practice

Water is one of the most important substances on Earth, and it has some unique physical properties. Read in detail about any one of the physical properties of water at the URL below. Then make a poster or video demonstrating this property of water.

Review

  1. What is a physical property of matter?
  2. List three examples of physical properties.
  3. Compare and contrast two physical properties of apples and oranges. You may want to use a Venn diagram to help you.
  4. Besides being able to conduct electricity, what other physical property of copper makes it well suited for electric wires?

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