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Physical & Chemical Properties of Compounds: Types & Examples

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  • 0:20 Compounds
  • 1:33 Physical Properties
  • 3:25 Chemical Properties
  • 5:33 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Compounds are made up of elements that are chemically joined. Like elements, compounds have properties that allow us to identify them. Learn about physical properties, like color, odor, melting point and boiling point, as well as chemical properties in this lesson.

Compounds

One of the things everyone loves to do at the beach is body surf in the salty ocean waves. Splashing around in the ocean is a great way to spend a fun afternoon, but did you know that when you're in the ocean waters, you're surrounded by chemical compounds?

In chemistry, compounds are defined as substances composed of two or more different elements that are chemically combined. Both salt and water are compounds. Salt is made up of the elements sodium and chloride. You can find these elements and others on the periodic table. Here, they are represented with the symbols Na for sodium and Cl for chloride. When sodium and chloride join together, they create the compound sodium chloride, which is represented by the formula NaCl.

Water is also a compound. Have you ever heard of H2O? That is the chemical formula for water. Water is made up of the elements hydrogen and oxygen, which are shown as H and O on the periodic table. As you may have already learned, every element has its own unique set of physical and chemical properties, which enable us to tell them apart. The same can be said for compounds. When elements join together, they create a compound that has new and different properties than those of the individual elements. In this lesson, we will learn about types of properties that help us identify compounds.

Physical Properties

A physical property is a characteristic that can be observed or measured. There are many types of physical properties that can be used to tell compounds apart. Let's look at some of the more common physical properties of compounds. Color and odor are physical properties. These are both very easy to observe using your sense of sight and smell. For example, the salt we learned about, which is actually the compound sodium chloride, is white and odorless, whereas the chemical compound hydrogen sulfide, which has the formula H2S, is colorless and smells like rotten eggs.

Melting point and boiling point are other common physical properties. When substances melt, they change from a solid to a liquid. The melting point is the temperature at which a solid substance melts. For example, a frozen cube of H2O, which you refer to as an ice cube, has a melting point of 0 degrees Celsius. When that temperature is reached, an ice cube begins to melt into liquid water. If you continue to turn up the heat, that liquid water will reach its boiling point, which is the temperature at which a liquid changes to a gas.

In the case of water, the boiling point is reached at 100 degrees Celsius. At that temperature, water turns into water vapor, or steam, like you might see floating over a pot of water on your stove. Of course, not all substances melt or boil at the same point. This helps us identify mystery substances. For instance, if you have a liquid that you are not sure what it is, you can boil it and determine its boiling point. You can also note other physical properties, like its color and odor. This information, gives you clues to help identify the mystery substance.

Chemical Properties

A chemical property can also be used to distinguish one compound from another. However, this type of property is not as easy to observe as a physical property. A chemical property is a characteristic of a substance that can only be observed during some type of chemical reaction. For example, some compounds have a reaction to acid. When you write your name on a chalkboard using a piece of chalk, you might end up with some chalk dust on your hand, but little else. However, if you drop that same piece of chalk, which is actually the chemical compound calcium carbonate, or CaCO3, into a beaker of hydrochloric acid, it will react by releasing observable bubbles of carbon dioxide.

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