Physical Changes of Substances with Kinetic Particle Theory

Learning Objectives:

  1. Explain the changes in state and their properties with the help of the KPT.
  2. Describe and explain evidence for the movement of particles in liquids and gases. Some examples are Brownian motion and diffusion.

The KPT can be used to explain how conversion of the states of a material, between solids, liquids and gases can occur as a result of increase or decrease in heat energy.

change in state.PNGstates of matter static with arrows.jpgRecall that the KPT assumes that all matter are made up of tiny particles with tiny spaces in between each other and these particles are in continuous random motion.

In the solid, the strong attractions between the particles hold them tightly together. Even though the particles are in constant random motion, the amount of energy produced by the motion is not enough to disrupt the structure.

solid.gifMicroscopic view of a solid when represented by the KPT

When a solid is heated, the particles gain energy and start to vibrate faster. Further heating of the material results in an increase in amount of energy absorbed and the increase in movement of the particles. Eventually the particles gain enough energy and movement to break free of the solid structure, resulting in the melting of the material to form a liquid.

The temperature in which the particles of a material is able to have enough energy to break free of the solid structure is known as the melting point of the material.

liquid.gifMicroscopic view of a liquid when represented by the KPT

The particles in the liquid is the same as that found in the original solid which have melted. The only difference is that the liquid particles carries more energy than the solid particles.

Within the liquid, there are some particles which have more energy than the other. These more energetic particles may have sufficient energy to escape from the surface of the liquid to give gas or vapour without further heating of the liquid.

evaporation kpt.PNG

As the temperature of the liquid increases, the rate of evaporation increases as there are more particles with sufficient energy to break free of the liquid structure. However, if a liquid is heated further, more and more particles have enough energy to overcome the attractive forces between each other and break free of the surface of the liquid together. At this point, we can say that the liquid is boiling and is converted into a gas.

The specific temperature at which a liquid starts to boil and is converted to a gas is known as the liquid’s boiling point. Eventually, all of the liquid particles will have enough energy to leave the liquid, resulting in the conversion of all of the liquid into a gas (hence the disappearance of the liquid).

gas.gifMicroscopic view of a gas when represented by the KPT

While the conversion of a solid to liquid or liquid to gas involves the gain of energy sufficient for the particles to break free of their original structure, the conversion of a gas to liquid (condensation) and a liquid to solid (freezing) is a result of the loss of energy of the particles due to the decrease in temperature of the material.

Summary video of the change in state of water, explained with the help of the KPT.


The KPT is also able to explain the movement of more than one type of particles with respect to each other. Two examples which we will be looking at are Brownian motion and diffusion.

Brownian motion is the random motion of particles suspended in a fluid (liquid or gas), resulting from the collision with the fast moving particles in the fluid.

The direction of the force of atomic bombardment is constantly changing, and at different times the particle is hit more on one side than another, leading to the seemingly random nature of the motion.

brownian motion.gif

This phenomenon is named after the botanist Robert Brown, who observed the movement of particles, which are trapped in cavities inside pollen grains, through water. At that point in time he was not able to determine the mechanisms that caused this motion. Brownian motion is later explained in detail by Albert Einstein and subsequently served as convincing evidence that atoms and molecules exist.

Diffusion is the net movement of molecules or atoms from a region of higher concentration to a region of lower concentration, aka down a concentration gradient, without the exertion of additional forces. Diffusion can be seen when we drop a drop of food dye into water and given some time, the food dye is spread evenly in the water to give a coloured solution.diffusion.gif

The microscopic movement movement of the particles during diffusion can be observed in the animation below.
DiffusionMicroMacro.gif

Initially, there are solute molecules on the left side of a barrier, demarcated by the purple line, and none on the right. After the barrier is removed, and the solute diffuses to fill the whole container. In the top figure, we see a single molecule which is moving around randomly. With more molecules, the solute fills the container more and more uniformly with time (Middle). With an enormous number of solute molecules, the solute appears to move smoothly and deterministically from high-concentration areas to low-concentration areas (Bottom). There is no microscopic force pushing molecules rightward.

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