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Physical Property of Matter: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 Definition
  • 0:45 Examples
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Instructor: Derrick Arrington

Derrick has taught biology and chemistry at both the high school and college level. He has a master's degree in science education.

Every time you look at an object, you observe its properties. In this lesson, you will learn about the physical properties of matter so you can identify them in the future.

Definition of Physical Properties of Matter

Matter is anything that has mass and takes up space. It can be in the form of solids, liquids, or gases. When you look at an object, you are able to see many of its properties. Scientists classify matter based on its chemical and physical properties that have been observed and tested. Some physical properties are only known through experimentation, while others are visible to the naked eye.

A physical property is a characteristic that can be observed or measured without changing the composition of the sample. Physical properties can be used to describe mixtures as well as pure substances. Because these pure substances have uniform and unchanging compositions, they also have consistent and unchanging physical properties.

Examples of Physical Properties of Matter

There are many types of physical properties. Commonly used examples include density, color, odor, hardness, and volume. Physical properties are further classified based on whether they are extensive or intensive. Extensive physical properties are those that are dependent on the amount of the substance present. Intensive physical properties are those that do not depend on the amount of the substance present. This means they will be the same whether you have one gram or one thousand kilograms of the substance.

Density is a physical property that is determined by dividing the mass of a given amount of a substance by its volume. It is often reported in units of g/mL, which means 'grams per milliliter'. Density is an intensive property because the density of a pure substance will be the same no matter how much of it you have. For example, the density of pure gold is 19.3 g/mL. This means that whether you have .5 grams or 200.5 grams of pure gold, the density will always be 19.3 g/mL when tested. Knowing this standard value enables jewelers to determine whether or not an item is pure gold.

Color is a commonly used physical property. It is often used to identify materials such as rocks and minerals. Color can be seen and measured but can be interpreted differently by respective viewers of the substance. Some materials can also appear darker or lighter depending on the amount of the material being viewed. This makes color an extensive physical property.

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