Dry ice is “Cool”

States of Matter!

Today we explored the changes that occur between the different forms, or states of matter. Matter can transition between states by adding or removing heat (energy).  Most of us are familiar with the liquid, solid, and gas states of matter but have you ever thought about how they are defined? Solids maintain a constant shape and volume; liquids maintain a constant volume but take on the shape of the container; gases expand to fill the container and so have neither a constant shape nor a constant volume.

We also investigated the changes that occur when matter transitions from one state to another.   We all know that when a liquid transitions to a gas, it is called vaporization (or evaporation), and changes between solids and liquids are referred to as melting and freezing, but some of the change terms were new, such as deposition (gas to solid).  Through demonstrations with dry ice (the solid state of carbon dioxide), the students were able to observe one particularly exciting transition in action: sublimation (solid to gas).

We studied sublimation by adding dry ice to water. The warmth of the water causes the dry ice to sublimate rapidly, releasing clouds of white vapor (carbon dioxide gas) that quickly sinks and dissipates. This was great fun to investigate and allowed the students to see all three states of matter (solid, liquid and gas) in a single cup.

 

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Additional Information:

Check out this video on how to make dry ice bubbles!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76CNkxizQuc

Author

Dr. Maureen Griffin

Maureen earned a Ph.D. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 2003. While at Penn, she developed a novel micro-mechanical technique called micropipette peeling to investigate the role of muscle cell adhesion in normal and diseased skeletal muscle cells. After graduating, Maureen worked full time as a post-doctoral researcher and then a staff scientist a SelectX Pharmaceuticals. She joined the teaching staff in 2008 and was excited to be made an executive staff member in 2009. Maureen also continued to consult part time for SelectX until her daughter's birth in 2009; now she is focused on Science from Scientists and, of course, her children. Maureen uses her spare time to read, blog, cook, and renovate her house.

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