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Phase Changes of Matter: Types & Examples

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  • 0:00 Definition Of Phase…
  • 1:00 Types Of Phase Changes
  • 1:40 Examples Of Phase Changes
  • 2:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
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.

Expert Contributor
Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

We are surrounded by matter. In this lesson, you will learn about phase changes of matter, and the types of phase changes that occur so you can recognize them in the future.

Definition of Phase Changes of Matter

By definition, matter is anything that has mass and takes up space. Matter exists as solids, liquids, gases, and plasma phases or states. A solid is any matter in a form that has a definite shape and volume. This means that no matter where you put a solid, its shape and volume will stay the same. A liquid is any matter that has a definite volume but no definite shape. This means that liquids retain their volume but take the shape of the container that is holding them. A gas is any matter that does not have a fixed shape or volume. Gases take the shape of their container and can expand or contract to change their volume. Plasma is matter that exists in the form of high energy charged particles.

A phase change is a transition of matter from one state to another. Phase changes occur regularly in nature and can be conducted by people. The phase in which matter exists is determined by the pressure and temperature of its surroundings. By manipulating the pressure and temperature, you can change the phase of the matter.

Types of Phase Changes

There are a total of eight phase changes that can occur. Let's look at what happens in each change.

  • Freezing occurs when a liquid changes to a solid.
  • Melting occurs when a solid changes directly to a liquid.
  • Sublimation occurs when a solid changes directly to a gas.
  • Deposition occurs when a gas changes directly to a solid.
  • Condensation is when a gas changes directly to a liquid.
  • Vaporization happens when a liquid changes directly to a gas.
  • Ionization occurs when a gas changes to plasma.
  • Recombination occurs when plasma changes to gas.

This diagram allows you to visualize what happens with each phase change.
A diagram that illustrates phase changes.

Examples of Phase Changes

Some phase changes are more common and easier for us to visualize. For example, you have probably witnessed freezing, melting, and vaporization just by making ice, melting ice, and boiling water. Condensation often occurs on the outside of cold beverage containers. This is when the humid air changes directly to a liquid on the surface of the container.

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Additional Activities

Phase Changes In Your Life

This activity brings phase changes to life for students. After reading the lesson students are released to find examples of phase changes in their daily lives and record them using both writing and drawing. Some phase change will not be readily observable, and thus students can find a video of the process instead and still complete the assignment.

Directions

Now that you're familiar with the eight phase changes, your job is to find as many examples of them in the real world as you can. Some phase changes, such as ionization and recombination do not readily occur on Earth. So, for these phase changes, you can turn to your favorite search engine to find some videos of them in action. For each phase change, you will describe what is happening, assess if energy is gained or lost and draw a picture of what you see or paste in a photo. Then, you can answer the questions.

Phase ChangeDescriptionIs Heat Lost or Gained?Picture
Freezing
Melting
Sublimation
Deposition
Condensation
Vaporization
Ionization
Recombination

Questions:

  1. Which phase changes were easiest to find and which were the hardest? Why do you think that is?
  2. Which phase changes did you find more commonly inside versus outside in the environment?
  3. Why do you think phase changes are important for our lives? Give at least one example from your field research today.

Expected Results

Students may have trouble finding examples of phase changes that skip over a state of matter, such as sublimation or deposition. Any phase changes that occur in the atmosphere, such as ionization, would only be found outside, whereas others like melting or freezing could be found in both locations. Phase changes are important for our lives because they help provide heat, cool our food, and regulate our weather, among other things.

A sample table a student might fill in could look as follows:

Phase ChangeDescriptionIs Heat Lost or Gained?Picture
FreezingIce cubes change from water to ice in the freezer Lost
Melting
Sublimation
Deposition
Condensation
Vaporization
Ionization
Recombination

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