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Properties of matter

Since there is over 100 different types of atoms, the type of matter that can be created is extensive. That means the property of every piece of matter is different, depending on what it is made of.

We can break up the properties of matter into 2 categories

Chemical and Physical.

Melting point and Boiling point





Refractive index

Heat Capacity




The melting or boiling point is the temperature at which a substance melts and boils.

Strength can be considered in different ways.

Tensile strength is a measure of the force needed to break a stretched piece of wire.

Compressional strength is the opposite. Substances which can withstand large forces without being crushed have high Compressional strength.

Hardness is the ability of a substance to scratch another surface. A iron nail will scratch a piece of plastic, because it is harder than the plastic.

Hardness and strength are not the same thing. Something hard may shatter easily. This is described as brittle.

Viscosity is the thickness of a liquid. A milk shake has a higher viscosity than water.

Conductivity is how easily something can move through a substance.

Electrical conductivity refers to how easily an electrical current flows through a substance.

Thermal conductivity refers to how easily heat moves through a substance. Low thermal conductivity is called an insulator.

When light goes through a substance it can bend. The more the light bends, the higher its refractive index.

This is a measure of how much heat energy is needed to increase the temperature of a substance.

Metal has a low heat capacity, as it increases heat quickly and thus doesn't need a lot of energy to heat up.

Compressibility refers to a substances ability to be compressed or squashed.

Gases, such as air can be compressed, however solids can’t. They are said to be incompressible.

Diffusion is the movement of particles, along the concentration gradient, from an area of high to low concentration. It occurs faster in gases than liquids and solids.

Density is the mass of a certain volume of a substance. The density of a substance will affect its properties, such as its ability to float.

Density = mass/volume

One litre of water is heavier than 1 litre of air. This mean water is denser than air.

1 litre of air weighs 0.003 g

1 litre of water weighs 1 kg

1 litre of lead weighs 8.7 kg

The particle model of matter explains density in terms of both the mass and closeness of the particles.

Gases have low density because the particles have a lot of space between particles.


Chemical properties are what a substance does in a chemical reaction. Bubbling, permanent colour change or permanent change off state.


Physical properties are what we can observe and measure without changing the substance into something else.

Colour texture, boiling point and density are physical properties.