specific properties of matter



We explain what the specific properties of matter are and the main characteristics of each of them with useful examples.

The properties of matter allow us to classify it and find out more about its origins.

What are the specific or intrinsic properties of matter?

Specific properties are characteristics that only some forms of matter have.

The matter that we know has numerous characteristics that allow us to classify it, order it and find out more about its origins. Some of these properties are general, that is, shared with all forms of matter that we know of, such as length, the weight or the volume.

There are also specific properties of matter, that is, properties that only some forms of matter have, and that allow us to differentiate one body from another, one element from another, or one substance of other. They are called essential or specific characteristics, since they are unique depending on the type of subject studied.

These properties have to do mainly with the nature itself and the physical behavior of matter, that is, its recurring reaction to certain stimuli. Matter of the same type, say, of the same element, will always behave the same since it always has the same specific properties.

Knowing the specific properties of a material is very useful. An example of this is the physical separations of the components of a mixture. Many times to achieve this, they are used methods as the distillation, based on the difference between the boiling points of the components of the mixture.

Among the specific properties of matter we can find physical properties and chemical properties.

Physical properties

They define the way and the state in which matter can be divided.

  • Density. The term density comes from the field of physical and the chemistry and alludes to the relationship that exists between mass of a substance (or a body) and its volume. It is an intrinsic property of matter, since it does not depend on the amount of substance that is considered. For example, one kilogram of wood and one kilogram of lead are easily distinguishable by their density, which is much higher in the case of lead.
  • Melting point. The melting point is temperature to which a solid go to liquid state. For this to happen, heat must be provided to the solid until its temperature exceeds the melting point and passes into the liquid phase. This property is different for each substance. For example, lead melts at 327.3ºC, aluminum at 658.7ºC and iron at 1530ºC.
  • Elasticity. Elasticity is the ability of matter to regain its original shape, as soon as the application of a force that forced her to change (deforming force). Some elements have shape memory, that is, they return to their original shape as soon as we stop forcing them to have another. This is the case with rubber or rubber, but not with aluminum (which remains as it is when deformed) or glass (which does not deform, it only breaks).

Elasticity is the ability of matter to regain its original shape.

  • Brightness. Brightness is the ability of matter to reflect certain spectra of light and it is typical of metallic or mineral elements. Said luster can be metallic, adamantine, pearly or vitreous, depending on which substance we use as reference (metal, diamond, mother-of-pearl or glass).
  • Hardness. Hardness is the natural resistance of certain materials to being scratched or penetrated by another material. For example, materials like diamond, which have high hardness, are more difficult to penetrate than materials like plaster, which have very low hardness.
  • Boiling point. The boiling point is the temperature at which the pressure of steam of a liquid with the pressure outside the liquid. The liquid-vapor phase transition occurs when the temperature of the liquid exceeds its boiling point. Sufficient is supplied for this heat to the liquid, so that the Kinetic energy his particles (energy they possess due to their movement) and go to the vapor phase. For example, the boiling point of water is 100ºC and that of mercury is 356.6ºC.

The boiling point is the transfer from the liquid to the gaseous state.
  • Electric conductivity. Electrical conductivity is the degree to which a material allows electric power be driven through it. This property depends on the structure of the material and the temperature. Some materials are better conductors than others, for example metals are good conductors. There are also materials called insulators, which do not conduct electric current. For example: glass, plastic, wood and cardboard.
  • Thermal conductivity. Thermal conductivity is the degree to which a material can conduct heat (heat and temperature are different concepts). This property depends on the structure of the material, on the temperature, on the phase changes of the material (for example, ice-water), among other factors. Most metals are good thermal conductors, and materials such as polymers they are poor thermal conductors. Some materials, such as cork, are thermal insulators and do not directly conduct heat.

Chemical properties

They define the reactivity of matter, that is, when one matter becomes a new one.

  • Reactivity. Reactivity is the ability of a material to react against another material.
  • Combustibility. Degree or extent to which a substance burns, it can be said colloquially, that it catches fire. Combustion occurs through a reaction of oxidation. Substances with high combustibility are called "fuels." Fuels well known in everyday life are gasoline and alcohol.
  • Acidity. It is the quality that a substance has to behave like an acid. Acids are substances that when dissolved in water, the resulting solution has pH less than 7 (pure water has a pH = 7).
  • Alkalinity. Ability of a substance to neutralize an acid. You could say, to counteract its effect.
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