What are Physical Properties of Matter?
Physical properties are all the magnitudes and characteristics of matter that explain how it behaves and functions in the physical or tangible world. Substances respond to conditions in their environment, such as pressure and temperature, and become for example solid, liquid or gaseous substances in that case. On the other hand, if there is an electric current and it can flow through it, the substance is an electrical conductor.
The known physical properties serve to describe how a material is observed, and range from its dimensions (length, width, depth), its mass and its volume (the space it covers), to the energy that is necessary to increase its temperature or transform it to another state of aggregation. These properties are different from chemical properties, which have more to do with how the matter that makes up the substance is made up.
Read Also: Chemical properties
Physical Quantities List
That said, physical properties can be listed from the most important or obvious to those that require closer or more elaborate observation.
- Electric conductivity
- Electric resistance
- Specific heat
- Boiling point
- Melting point
Most physical properties are expressed with units of measurement , which are symbols and expressions that define them and thus allow them to be measurable, such as calculating more complex properties. The units of measurement come from the so-called measurement systems , among which are:
- International System of Units (SI) , which is based on the units kilogram (symbol: Kg) which is designated for mass, meter (symbol: m) for length, and second (symbol: s) for time.
- English system , which focuses on the pound (symbol: lb) for mass, the foot (symbol: ft) for length, and the second (symbol: s) for time.
- cgs system , focused on the units gram (symbol: g) for mass, centimeter (symbol: cm) for length, and second (symbol: s) for time.
20 Examples of physical properties
- Color: is the result of visible light falling on the substance and allowing us to see it. A certain wavelength is what we perceive there and allows us to say that the substance is of that color.
- Brightness or lustre: it is the intense flash that the substance reflects, especially if it is solid, when the light reaches its surface.
- Smell: it is the chemical effect that the substance achieves in our sense of smell, and it can be seen if it is powdery or of fine granulometry (particles that reach our nose) or liquid (it is appreciated as it evaporates) or gaseous (if it is take a breath).
- Dimensions: are the magnitudes that determine its physical shape and the space it covers on the X, Y and Z axes. The dimensions are length (for X axis), width (for Y axis) and depth (for Z axis).
- Mass: is the amount of matter that a substance contains.
- Weight: is the force that the mass of that substance exerts on the planet, due to the action of the attraction of gravity.
- Volume: it is the three-dimensional space that the substance encompasses, thanks to its dimensions. In the case of solids, it is measurable. But for liquids and gases it depends on the containers in which they are contained.
- Density: is the relationship between the mass of a substance and the volume it comprises.
- Viscosity: is the resistance of a substance to flow. Gases have a very low viscosity. Solids do not flow, they only respond to the forces applied to them. Liquids have variable viscosities; for example, acetone flows immediately and honey takes time to flow.
- Solubility: is the ability of one substance to dissolve in another. It is, as it is, the maximum amount of the substance that can be dissolved without starting to separate from the solvent or precipitate.
- Electrical conductivity: is the ability of a substance to allow the passage of an electric current through it. It becomes an electrical conductor.
- Electrical resistance: is the property by which a substance prevents the passage of an electric current. It becomes an electrical insulator.
- Hardness: it is the property of solid matter by which it is difficult to scratch its surface. With metals this property is remarkable: they can only be scratched by harder materials.
- Toughness: it is the property of solid matter by which it resists impacts without breaking.
- Malleability: is the property of solid matter by which it can be deformed into different shapes without breaking.
- Ductility: is the property of solid matter, especially metals, by which they can be converted into wires.
- Specific heat: is the energy that must be added to a substance to raise its temperature by one degree.
- Volatility: is the property by which a liquid substance evaporates at temperatures below 100°C, which are the boiling point of water, especially under ambient conditions. Alcohols are volatile because they evaporate at room temperature.
- Boiling point: is the temperature at which a liquid substance begins to boil to turn into steam. For example, water has a boiling point of 100°C, and that of ethyl alcohol is 75°C.
- Melting point: is the temperature at which a solid substance begins to melt to become a liquid. For example, iron has a boiling point of 1538°C.