Anda di halaman 1dari 6




The particulate theory of matter has been

supported for more than 180 years just by
indirect evidence. It was not until some
thirty years ago that particles could be
observed through a sophisticated electron
microscope apparatus properly named as
(Tunnel Effect Electron Scanning
Microscope). In a qualitative approach it
is based in a few postulates but it has
proved to be a powerful tool in the
understanding of both physical and
chemical phenomena.
The T. E. E. S. Microscope

The particulate theory of matter postulates that:

• Matter is made out of extremely small particles

• Particles move constantly in empty space.
• The temperature of a system (the stuff we are studying) increases as the
average movement energy (kinetic energy) of its particles increases.


There was no evidence (until the use of the T.E.E.S. microscope).for the existence of
particles. An indirect evidence for them was what is known as diffusion.

Diffusion is the even distribution of a substance in a liquid (or a gas) without

observable macroscopic movement.

Because of diffusion, although nobody moves the air, a perfume from a flask opened at
one corner of the class will get to the nose of pupil in the opposite corner. If a small
coloured crystal is placed at the bottom of a beaker containing some water, and the
beaker and the water inside it are kept absolutely still, after some time it is found that
the crystals have dissolved and the colour has spread slowly in every direction. In 3 or 4
hours you can find some coloured particles everywhere in the liquid and after 24 hours
the colour will be evenly distributed all through the liquid. You could argue that the
violet crystals have changed the water particles (as if it were some contagious disease).
But a sample from the top of the violet solution can be evaporated, and the residue will
show that there are some few violet crystals in it. The only possible explanation is that
the somehow the substance has moved through empty spaces in the liquid just as our
theory predicts.


We recognise three states of matter:

• The solid state. A solid is a body that has a shape and a volume of its own. A
stone, a block of ice, a golden ring are all solids. Solids do not flow, neither
can be easily compressed. On heating they slightly increase their volume (their
size) as their temperature is increased. This fact is known as expansion.
• The liquid state. Liquids have a definite volume as solids but they easily flow,
changing their shape. That is why liquids must be kept in a container. Water,
alcohol and oil are very well known liquids. A liquid will take the shape of the
container it is kept in. The “open end” of the liquid will form a horizontal
surface. They are slightly more compressible than solids and they also expand
a little more easily than solids do.
• The gaseous state. Gases have neither shape nor volume of their own. They
flow at a fantastic high speed and occupy all the volume available. They are very
easily compressed and they expand a lot with increasing temperature. The air
we breathe, the bubbles fizzing out from a soda water bottle, methane (the
“natural gas” we use to cook) are gases you can recognise.
• There is a fourth state of matter called the plasma state. Plasmas are gases
formed by both negatively and positively charged particles. This is the state
in which matter in stars and (obviously) the Sun is. Polar Auroras are formed by
plasma too.

The arrangements of particles in solids, liquids and gases

Using the simple model f the Particle Theory the properties of the three states of matter
can be explained.

• Solids

In the solid state, the particles are almost touching, and the only
motion allowed to them is vibration. The particles may be
arranged regularly (in which case, the solid is crystalline), or at
random (the solid is said to be amorphous).
The particles are held in the solid by forces which depend on the
nature of the substance itself

• Liquids

In a liquid, the particles are very close to each other (though not as
much as in a solid,) but some gaps have appeared in the structure. These
gaps allow the particles to move, and so the particles are wandering
about randomly, sliding past each other. The forces that held the solid
particles together are also present in the liquid, but in a somewhat
loosened form.

• Gases

In a gas, the particles are entirely free to move. At ordinary pressures,

the distance between individual particles is of the order of ten times

the size of the particles. At that distance, any attractions between the particles are
fairly negligible.
Gases cannot be seen because their particles are widely separated. Light travels through
them almost unaltered because it seldom collides against a particle. Water vapour
(steam) is not visible. Look at a boiling kettle: you’ll see the “vapour” when it has
already condensed into tiny droplets of liquid water, some two centimetres above the
spout, not just at the outlet!


Melting and freezing

If energy is supplied by heating the solid, the heat energy raises the system’s
temperature; this means that the particles will move (vibrate) faster. Stronger vibrations
eventually loosen the particles from their neighbours to form a liquid. This is what we
call melting. When a liquid freezes, the reverse happens: as it is cooled down it gets to
a certain temperature at which the motion of its particles will be slow enough for the
forces of attraction to be able to hold them in-place as a solid. As the new links are
formed, heat energy evolves (is set free as heat).

Vapour pressure

Temperature is related to the average movement of the particles. But the individual
particles in a system are not moving at the same rate. Some of them go faster (a few go
way faster!) and others rather slowly. As they constantly collide with each other they
don’t even keep the same speed for more than millionths of a second!
If one of the “really fast” particles in a liquid is at its surface, it may escape to the
environment. In any system we talk about trillions of particles so there will always be
lots of them escaping from the liquid to the atmosphere: they are pushing their way out
of the liquid to become a gas. This “push” is called the vapour pressure of the liquid.
Obviously it depends on how strong the particles are attracted to each other and how
energetic (“hot”) the system is. Vapour pressure is appreciable also in many solids
(have you smelled naphthalene? The solid’s particles move through the air into your


As vapour pressure exists at any temperature, the faster particles

in a liquid can change into vapour (gas). They just have to get to
the surface with the appropriate speed. This process is called
evaporation. The evaporation rate of a liquid depends on its
vapour pressure and in turn, this depends on the temperature of
the liquid and on the easiness to overcome the attractive forces of
the rest of the particles. But there are external factors affecting it.

The surface area is essential to evaporation; the wider it is the

more probable to find particles at it and this increases the rate.
Particles do escape from the liquid but they are not alone in the
gaseous state: there are air particles moving everywhere as in
any gas. They crash and bump and rebound against the

“fugitive” particles sending them back again to the liquid. That is why at reduced
pressure evaporation goes faster (less knocks). It also explains why blowing on a liquid
increases the evaporation rate: the particles are swept out laterally before they are
knocked back to the liquid.

Boiling and condensing

If heat energy is supplied to the liquid, its particles eventually will move fast enough to
“tie the score” with the atmospheric pressure. They will massively escape to the gas,
and bubbles will form all through the liquid overcoming their neighbours’ attraction.
The liquid boils.
If the gas is cooled, at some temperature the gas particles will slow down enough and if
they crash against each other, they will not be able to separate again; the attractions
become effective enough again to condense it back into a liquid. As those forces are re-
established, heat energy is released.
Boiling versus Evaporation

Both boiling and evaporation correspond to the change of state from liquid to gas and
are considered two forms of vaporisation. The following chart summarises the
differences between both vaporisation processes.

At any temperature At a fixed temperature (at a given pressure)
Just at the surface All through the liquid
Does not form bubbles Bubbling all through the liquid
Rate depends an surface area Rate independent of surface area
Rate depends on wind Rate independent of wind

Volatilisation and sublimation

A solid can change into a gas without melting provided certain conditions are given.
The particles in the outer layers of the crystal, just go away slowly and after some time
the solid has disappeared (Naphthalene balls are a good example)This change of state is
called volatilisation and its reverse (gas changing
into solid) is sublimation. Dry ice is not at all ice. It
is solid carbon dioxide (the gas of fizzy drinks) that
volatilises readily taking energy from the
surroundings; it is used to cool things down or
keeping them very cold. Menthol, camphor,
naphthalene, iodine and caffeine are other examples
of substances that volatilise / sublime quite easily.
At very low pressure even water volatilises and
sublime. Many temperature sensitive substances are
dehydrated this way, freezing, reducing pressure
and forcing ice to volatilise/sublime. This process is
called lyophilisation. The chart on the right
summarises all the changes mentioned.



Thermometers and scales

To measure distances between towns we use the unit of length (the metre or the
kilometre). We must also state where is the “zero point”, the point we start to measure
from. In our case it is the “Plaza de los Dos Congresos”. Now what about temperature?

To measure masses we use a balance, to measure distances we use a metre tape, to

measure volumes we use a measuring cylinder. The apparatus use for measuring
temperatures is called “thermometer”. There are several different classes
of thermometers but the most popular is the liquid-in-glass (mercury-in-
glass mainly) thermometer. It works on the expansion of matter with
increasing temperature. As a body becomes hotter, it will expand (liquids
more than solids). As the liquid occupies more space, the height of the
column will increase proportionally with temperature.

The same as for length and other magnitudes we need a unit to measure
temperatures and to set a zero or reference point. To that purpose Daniel
Fahrenheit (a Dutchman) proposed a scale that is still in use in the USA
and other English speaking countries. A few years later, Anders Celsius (a
Swedish) proposed his scale that has been widely accepted and is the scale
that we and all other countries use for everyday life (except those
mentioned before). The Celsius scale is based on the temperatures at which the water
freezes and boils. The freezing point of water was labelled “zero” or 0 °C and the
boiling point of water at normal atmospheric pressured was decreed to be 100 °C. Thus,
1 °C is the hundredth part of the increase in temperature of water from its freezing
point to its boiling point. The zero point was chosen as the freezing point of water.

The Absolute Temperature and the Kelvin Scale

The problem of measuring temperature urged to be solved long before scientists were
aware of its relation to particle movement. Once scientists have established that the
temperature is related to the movement of particles, it follows that the “real” or
“natural” zero should be placed at the temperature at which particles have the least
movement energy possible.

Scientists have found that this temperature is located at -273 °C (-273,16 actually).
Lord Kelvin proposed a new scale keeping the size of the unit as in the Celsius scale,
but shifting down the zero to the real or absolute zero, that is -273 steps down the
melting point of ice. This scale is known as the Absolute or Kelvin scale. A
temperature of 27 °C in the Kelvin scale in this scale is 27 + 273 = 300 K. Notice that
the “°” symbol is no longer used for this scale. A temperature of 373 K corresponds to
373 – 273 = 100 °C the boiling point of water. In the Kelvin scale there are no
negative temperatures. The figure below shows the three scales.

Remember Co + 273 = K and K - 273 = Co


1- Which are the essential ideas of the particle theory?

2- What properties make a solid different from a liquid and a liquid different from a

3- What is “plasma” in physics?

4- What is the physical state at room temperature of the following materials:

a- Gold c- Butter
b- Water d- Plasticine (playing dough)

5- You have been taught that gases cannot be seen: so what is the physical state of
water in the clouds?

6- Draw diagrams showing:

a- a gas changing into a liquid
b- a solid changing into a gas
c- a substance mixing spontaneously because of molecular motion
through a liquid.

7- Name the three processes pictured in exercise (1)

8- Explain the term “absolute zero” in terms of molecular motion. Then:

a- Convert in Kelvin the following temperatures: 0°C; -154°C; 28°C, -273°C.
b- Convert to Celsius the following temperatures: 203 K, 373 K, 480 K, 1.000 K

9- Explain why an evaporating liquid gets cooler.