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Examples of Intensive & Extensive Properties of Matter

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  • 0:02 Intro to Properties of Matter
  • 1:06 Extensive Properties
  • 2:02 Intensive Properties
  • 4:18 Importance of…
  • 5:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Lange

Amy has taught university-level earth science courses and has a PhD in Geology.

This lesson will explore some examples of intensive and extensive properties to help you identify them more easily in the future. At the end of this lesson, you should be able to define intensive and extensive properties and provide examples.

Properties of Matter

If you've studied chemistry for some time, you've probably noticed that it has a lot of properties that are used to define matter. Throughout introductory chemistry, you solve problems looking at mass, number of moles, melting point, densities, and several other variables that will affect the system you're studying. You may have noticed that some of these properties are more intrinsic or unique to the specific substance being examined. These unique properties are also known as intensive properties.

Intensive properties are properties of matter that do not change when you vary the amount of matter. Other properties, such as mass, will vary depending on the amount of matter. These properties are called extensive properties. You can remember the difference by thinking about the fact that extensive properties are directly affected by the extent of the substance, or how much matter you have. Intensive properties are intrinsic or essential to the nature of the substance.

Extensive Properties

We're going to look into a few examples to better understand these distinctions. Let's first start with extensive properties, or those that rely on the amount of matter. If you have 200 grams of water in a glass and pour out half of the glass, you now only have 100 grams. This is because you have gotten rid of half of the amount of matter in the system. In much the same way, if you have a liter of water and pour out half, you now only have half of a liter.

Extensive properties are those properties that deal with the amount or answer any of the 'how much' questions. Can you think of any other examples that are extensive properties?

An obvious one may be the number of moles. Many chemistry problems will ask you to solve the number of moles in a specific amount of matter. Since this is a 'how much' type of property, you can easily identify it as an extensive property.

Intensive Properties

There are only so many ways in which you can define the amount or extent of matter. What about all of these other properties that we use to describe matter? The remainder of these are intensive properties, or those that do not change when you change the amount of matter.

Remember when we poured out half of the glass of water, decreasing the mass from 200 grams to 100 grams? If the water started at 20 degrees Celsius, the water would have stayed at 20 degrees Celsius, even when we removed half of the matter. This behavior helps us identify temperature as an intensive property.

You may have learned earlier that water freezes at 0 degrees Celsius. Whether we are talking about a lake or just a glass of water, both will freeze once the water reaches 0 degrees Celsius. You may be thinking, but wait, it will take a lot longer to freeze a lake rather than a glass of water. However, the freezing point is not concerned with the amount of time it takes to reach a certain temperature, but rather just describes the behavior that water will transition from liquid to solid at zero degrees, regardless of the amount of matter. Thus, freezing point is an intensive property and doesn't change when we vary amount.

Other examples of intensive properties are color, boiling point, pressure, molecular weight and density. Density is an interesting example. Remember that density is mass divided by volume. As you just learned, both mass and volume are extensive properties, or dependent on the amount of matter. So how is density an intensive property if it's just the ratio of two extensive properties?

Well, it turns out that when you take a ratio of two extensive properties, you get an intensive property. When you poured out half of the glass of water, the density stayed at 1 g/cm^3. By pouring out half of the water, you decreased the mass and the volume by half. Remember that when something is on both the top and bottom of a fraction, they cancel each other out. In this case, you are multiplying both the top and bottom of the fraction by 0.5. Thus, 0.5 cancels out in both cases and the density remains the same.

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