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Matter: Kinetic Molecular Model, and

Thermal Properties
In these notes: bullet points are from the Cambridge IGCSE syllabus. Text in italics is
supplementary (extended).

1. Solids, Liquids and Gases: Properties and Particles

State the distinguishing

properties of solids, liquids
and gases.
Describe qualitatively the
molecular structure of
solids, liquids and gases.
Relate the properties of
solids, liquids and gases to
the forces and distances
between molecules and to
the motion of the molecules.

The world particles is used a lot below. It can

mean either atoms, or molecules (two or more
atoms bonded together). For example, a particle
of iron is simply a single iron atom; whereas a
particle of water is a molecule of H2O (two
hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, bonded
together), and a particle of sucrose is the
molecule C12H22O11.



Explanation in terms of particles

(Atoms/molecules held
very close together by
strong attractions.
They stay in their
positions, but vibrate
move repeatedly
backwards and

Fixed shape. (Cant

be poured.)

The particles are strongly attracted

and cant change their positions.

Cannot be
compressed / has a
fixed volume.

The particles are very close together

(and if you try to push them closer,
they repel each other).

(Atoms/molecules are
very close together but
the attractions are
weaker than in a solid.
So they can move
around, changing
Neighbouring particles
may be temporarily
attracted, but then
break apart again.)

Can be poured, or

The particles are not strongly

attracted, so they can move past each

Fills the bottom of its


Gravity pulls the liquid down, and the

particles cant escape from each other
because they are attracted. But the
attractions are not strong, so the
particles move around and the liquid
flows to fill the bottom of the

Cannot be
compressed / has a
fixed volume.

The particles are very close together

(and if you try to push them closer,
they repel each other).

Fills its container

(changes its shape
and volume).

The particles are not attracted, so they

do not stay together.
(This is beyond IGCSE, but in case
youre wondering: gas particles can
defy gravity because they have a lot
of energy for their size. Like a fast-

(Atoms/molecules are
far apart, and there is
no attraction between
They move
often in
think the particles are
significantly farther apart in a
liquid than in a solid. This is
not true.
1 If you draw the
particles in a liquid, you
should draw them touching.

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high speed.)

moving rocket or a firework, they are

energetic enough to overcome
Can be compressed /
does not have a
fixed volume.

The particles are far apart, so they can

be pushed closer together.

Low density.

Not many particles per unit volume, so

has a low mass per unit volume.

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2. Heat and Temperature

Interpret the temperature of a gas in terms of the motion of its


Firstly, heat and temperature are not the same thing (although they are related).
Heat: a type of energy. Heat can be transferred from one object or place to another,
and we measure amounts of heat in joules. When some heat enters an object, its
temperature usually rises (but not always see later).
Temperature: the temperature of an object is related to the average kinetic energy
of its particles. The faster its particles are moving (either vibrating or moving
around), the higher its temperature. (Beyond IGCSE: the temperature of an object is
directly proportional to the average kinetic energy of its particles.) Usually if you give
an object some more heat, that extra energy is shared between the objects particles.
The average kinetic energy (and the speed) of the particles increases. This means it
has a higher temperature than before.

3. Thermal Expansion

Describe qualitatively the thermal expansion of

solids, liquids and gases.
Identify and explain some of the everyday
applications and consequences of thermal
Explain in terms of motion and arrangement of
molecules the relative order of magnitude of the
expansion of solids, liquids and gases.

Thermal expansion can be explained by the kinetic molecular

If the temperature of a substance rises, that means its
particles are moving faster. This causes changes we can
measure and sometimes actually see:

Warning! Students
often write that when a
substance is heated, its
particles expand. You
would get no marks for
this! The particles dont
expand they stay the
same size. The
substance itself
expands, because its
move farther
of matter.

The particles vibrate faster
and farther. They push
each other farther apart,
so the solid expands a

The particles move
around faster. They hit
each other with more
force, pushing each other
farther apart. So the
liquid expands a little.

The particles move around
faster. They hit the insides
of their container harder and
more often. If the container
is able to be pushed
outwards by their increased
force (e.g. a balloon, a
syringe), then the gas will
expand. Gases expand
much more than solids and

Particles in a solid are very

strongly attracted to their

Particles in a liquid are

quite strongly attracted;

There is no attraction
between the particles to

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neighbours; this stops

them moving much farther
apart, so the expansion in
a solid is usually small.

this stops the liquid

expanding as much as a
gas, but allows it to
expand more than a

resist the expansion, so

gases expand a lot when
their temperature rises.

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Thermal expansion - uses and risks:

The liquid (mercury, or more commonly alcohol) in a thermometer
expands when heated, and can be used to show the temperature:
Bimetallic strips:
Different metals expand by different amounts when heated. If strips of two different
metals are welded/stuck together, their different amounts of expansion causes them
to bend. This phenomenon can be used for temperature measurement, or for cutting
off a circuit when it gets too hot.

A bimetallic strip thermometer (left). This strip is bent into a spiral. When it expands,
the spiral starts to open out, and the pointer moves round.

Dealing with Risks

When large structures like bridges expand in hot weather, this could cause serious
danger and damage: the bridge could bend or crack. The pictures below show
expansion joints in bridges: they give room for the bridge to expand safely.

The same applies to railway tracks. On the left is a track which

has got hot, expanded and buckled (notice the derailed train in
the background). It is important to include small gaps in the
rails so this doesnt happen.

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4. Evaporation

Describe evaporation in terms of the escape of more energetic molecules

from the surface of a liquid.
Relate evaporation to the consequent cooling.
Demonstrate understanding of how temperature, surface area and air
flow over a surface influence evaporation.

Evaporation can be explained by the kinetic molecular model of matter (matter is

made of particles).
Evaporation is a change of state of a liquid into a gas at a temperature below the
boiling point of the liquid. It happens at the liquid surface, where some of the fastermoving particles escape. (In a liquid, there is an average particle speed, but some
particles will be faster than this and some slower.) This lowers the average kinetic
energy of the particles in the liquid so the liquids temperature drops.

Factors which increase the rate of evaporation:

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5. Melting and Boiling

Describe melting and boiling in terms of energy input without a change

in temperature.
Distinguish between boiling and evaporation.
Describe condensation and solidification.
State the meaning of melting point and boiling point.
Use the terms latent heat of vaporisation and latent heat of fusion and
give a molecular interpretation of latent heat.

Changes of State
States of matter are the physical states in which matter can exist: solid, liquid
and gas. You need to remember the words we use for the changes between


Changes of state can be explained by the kinetic molecular model of matter:

Melting happens when the particles of a solid get enough energy to partly
break free of their attractions. This happens if the solid is given enough heat
to reach its melting point (melting temperature), for example 0C for ice.
Boiling happens when the particles of a liquid get enough energy to break
free of their attractions completely. This happens if the liquid is given enough
heat to reach its boiling point (boiling temperature), for example, 100C for
Water is an unusual substance. Most liquids contract (get smaller) as they get
colder and then freeze. But when water gets close to
freezing, its particles actually get farther apart.
Thats because in solid water (ice), the particles fit
together in a particular arrangement which is
relatively spaced out (see diagrams). That means ice
is less dense than water, which has some important
consequences for our planet
Boiling and Evaporation
Involves liquid turning into gas.
Happens at any temperature (as
long as the substance is a
Only happens at the surface of
the liquid.

Involves liquid turning into gas.
Only happens at one particular temperature
(the boiling point).
Happens throughout the liquid. Bubbles
appear and rise to the surface. These
bubbles are filled with the gas version of
the liquid. (E.g. when water boils, the
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Does not need any heat to enter

the liquid.

bubbles are full of water in the gas state.)

Heat has to enter the liquid from outside to
make boiling happen.

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Latent Heat
When you boil a liquid, its temperature doesnt go above the boiling point until
it has finished boiling. For example, while you are boiling water, the
temperature of the water stays at 100C until all the water has boiled to water
This may seem strange: you are putting heat energy into the liquid,
yet its temperature does not rise. Where is the energy going?
The heat energy is used to break the intermolecular attractions
between the molecules of the liquid; after the liquid has turned to gas, this
energy is stored in the gas as potential energy. (The molecules now
have the potential to come back together again to form a liquid. If
they do, the stored chemical energy will turn back into heat energy.)
The same thing happens when a solid melts. For example, if you heat
ice so that it melts, the temperature of the ice+water mixture will stay
at 0C until all the ice has melted.

This diagram shows the energy and temperature changes when a substance melts or
boils. (Ek means kinetic energy of the particles; Ep means potential energy of the

Below is a heating curve for water; a heating curve is a graph showing the
temperature of a substance plotted against the amount of energy it has
absorbed. You may also see a cooling curve, which shows the temperature
when a substance cools down.

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6. Behaviour of Gases

Describe qualitatively the pressure of a gas in terms of the motion of its

Describe qualitatively the effect of a change of temperature on the
pressure of a gas at constant volume.
Describe qualitatively the effect of a change of temperature on the
volume of a gas at constant pressure.
Relate the change in volume of a gas to change in pressure applied to
the gas at constant temperature and use the equation p V = constant at
constant temperature.

Why do gases exert a


What happens to the pressure

when you increase the
temperature (but keep the volume
the same say, by trapping the
gas inside a strong box)?

Cool gas

Hot gas:
particles hit
the walls
harder, and
more often

What happens to the

volume when you
increase the
temperature (but keep
the pressure the same
say, by keeping the
same weight on top of
the gas)?

Lower temp. Higher

move faster,
so hit the
walls harder
and more
often. If the
gas can, it
will expand.

If you keep the temperature of a gas the same but change its pressure, the volume
will change. Or if you change the volume, the pressure will change:


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In a gas at constant temperature, the pressure (p) is inversely proportional to the

volume (V): that means if the pressure increases the volume decreases, and if the
pressure decreases the volume increases. The relationship looks like this:

Another way to write this inversely proportional relationship is: pV = constant

(if you keep the same amount of gas (none escapes) and the same temperature)




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