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Overview         (For age - group : Above 16 )

Matter undergoes changes in state as heat is continuously applied to it, why does this happen to understand it we have to look inside the matter, using kinetic theory. This animated science topic gives in-depth information about kinetic theory and is very useful for high schools, college and industry.

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Animation type : Advanced

Animation length = 30 minutes

Kinetic theory of matter : The interactive e-learning animation details the following

  • Why solids have a definite shape and volume ?
  • Why liquid do not have a definite shape ?
  • Why gases have neither a definite shape or volume ?
  • What is the effect of heat on the three states of matter ?
  • What is melting and melting point ?
  • What is evaporation ?
  • What is boiling point ?

Explanatory Notes contain :

1) Plasma state
2) Forces existing in nature

effect of heat on three states of matter
Effect of heat on three states of matter Solid - liquid - gaseoues state - melting of ice
why solids have a definite shape
Ice has a definite shape that changes as it melts
Solids have a definite shape due to arrangement of molecules
Ice has a definite shape that changes as it melts
the three states of matter
The three states of matter
Details of the animation/ movie /software

The basic ideas of the kinetic theory are

  1. all matter consists of particles (atoms or molecules) in motion
  2. as the temperature increases, the average speed of the movement increases.

According to this theory, the temperature of a body is a measure of the average kinetic energy of it particles.
This theory can also be used to explain the differences between the different states (or phases) of matter.

Solids :

The particles vibrate around fixed positions. They are close together and so attract each other strongly. This is why solids maintain their shape.

Liquid :

The particles are still relatively close together but now have enough energy to "change places" with each other. This is why liquids can flow.

Gases :

Average distance between particles typically 10 times greater than in solids and liquids. The particles now move freely at random, occupying all the space available to them.

This process can be thought about as being similar to this....

100 people in you living room, all glued to the floor. They can all move a little but can't move their feet.

You now feed them all some high energy food which gives them enough energy to pull their feet free, so they can now move around. Unfortunately the door is locked so they are all still VERY close together, but at least they can move a little. To continue the analogy from above, this can be thought of like this...

Your room full of moving (liquid) people is now given some even higher energy food. They now have enough energy to break the door down (and some of the walls too). This means that they can spread out because they can get outside - just like a gas.


  • Solids are made up of particles which are attached together and can only vibrate back and forth.

  • Liquid's particles are still held together but are able to move around each other.

  • Gas has particles which have enough energy to have broken the bonds that held them together as a liquid.

  • To go from solid to liquid to gas you need to add energy
  • To go from gas to liquid to solid you must remove energy

  • Solid - Liquid = Melting, Liquid - Gas = Evaporating

  • Gas - Liquid = Condensing, Liquid - Solid = Freezing

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Q & A
Q1: how particle change solid to liquid subasree 7/11/2013
Q3: effects of evaporation on the basis of kinetic theory of matter Siddharth 19/8/2013
Q4: when 2 metals are put in a beaker of water and heated why are there bubbles seen on the metals avikesh narayan 25/6/2011
Q5: using the kinetic theory, explian what causes gas pressure ben hazzard 24/10/2010
Q6: what happens when meltig occurs bob 22/4/2010
Q7: difference btwn caloric n kinetic theories of heat? aneka 28/3/2010
Q8: recalll d role of joules experiments in establishing the principle of conservation of enrgy? aneka 28/3/2010
Q9: How are boiling point, freezing point/melting point, kinetic theory, phase change, and the four states of matter related to each other? Jakela T 6/1/2010
Q10: How does the study of heat relate to the kinetic theory of matter? Kiwanda Tindal 8/11/2009
Q11: how the vapour condenses into a liquid? ong win nie 2/2/2009
Q12: what causes friction? bhaumik 11/10/2008
Q13: the changes that take place in the steam generator vessel as the waer is heated from a liquid to gas, increasd in pressure by increasing temperature and then cools back to liquid camella 7/10/2008
Q14: Does KE and PE of a water molecule increase or decrease during 1) evaporation and 2) boiling? hobbs 26/9/2008
Q15: explain Evaporation usin the kinetic theory shanice 9/9/2008
Q16: Why steam is more injurious than hot water Ammad Zafar 18/5/2008
Ans: Water converts to steam at 540 calories for one gram of water, to raise the temperature of one gram of water from 37C (temperature of skin) to 100C (the boiling point) requires 63 calories (one calorie per degree). Hence to there is 9 times energy required to convert water to steam, this energy is stored in steam and it is released when the steam condenses to water and the water cools to the temperature of skin. The water molecules quickly condenses onto your skin into liquid form after transferring its energy thru exothermic reaction, or a heat producing reaction causing a burn, hence steam is more injurious than hot water
Q17: use the kinetic theory of matter to explain why melting requires energy but there is no change in temperature fia 28/4/2008
Q18: why water cools in a porous pot. the explaination that i got some where in my childhood is that water looses its K.E. when they collide with porous walls of d pot. but does it loose K.E. only when the wall is porous? sunil 21/4/2008
Ans: What is happening is as water is evaporating through the walls, it is taking the heat away from the rest of water molecules inside the pot, a black colored pot absorbs more heat and helps in evaporation through its walls. The KE of water molecules that escape to the atmosphere increases till they can break the bonds in the process they collide more with molecules and increase in speed, thus actually taking more heat away. Porous walls only provide an outlet, in absence of which, the water molecules will keep on switching between evaporation and condensation inside the pot.
Q19: using kinetic theory of matter describe the phenomenon whereby liquid water can change to vapour (gas) and to Solid (ice) Onyenze 25/2/2008
Ans: Kinetic energy and the molecules can bring about the phase change. In liquid water, molecules are close but several groups of moles are clumped together and moving briskly, take out kinetic energy rapidly from the molecules, they slow down and subsequently nearly stop, this increases the force of attraction between them, causing bonds to form and results into a solid (ice). The reverse happens when the kinetic energy is increased in liquid water, the groups move faster and faster till they break the bonds apart and convert into individual molecules and form a gas.
Q20: how is plasma also related? mimi 1/2/2008
Ans: Plasma is an ionized gas but not a gas. Plasma is considered to be a distinct state of matter, apart from gases, because of its unique properties. It has one or more free electrons, which are not bound to an atom or molecule. The free electric charges make the plasma electrically conductive. It is closely related to the gas phase in that it also has no definite form or volume, however in gas, all gas particles behave in a similar way, influenced by gravity, and collisions with one another but in plasma, electrons, ions, and neutrals can be distinguished by the sign of their charge so that they behave independently in many circumstances, with different velocities and temperatures, allowing phenomena such as new types of waves and instabilities. This makes it a fourth state of matter.
Q21: why does the pressureof the gauge reading remains constant when the tank is shut off and there is no leak kristine 27/1/2008
Ans: If there is no leak the pressure will remain constant, what is the doubt here?
Q22: why is it not advisable to increase the air pressure in a car tire to full limit when driving on a hot day? kristine 27/1/2008
Ans: Air being a gas undergoes expansion as the temperature increases. Heat of the day added to the heat generated due to friction of tires on the road couples to produce high temperature as the air expands it can blow up the tube, causing accidents.
Q23: in the atmosphere, how can hot air be separated from the cold air and why is this so? kristine 27/1/2008
Ans: Cold air is denser and heavier than hot air. A hot air has more kinetic energy which allows it to act against gravity also being less dense makes the atoms take up more space and therefore makes it less dense and lighter, hence it rises up, while colder air due to higher density and lower KE falls.
Q24: which one will cause severe burn 1g of water at 100 degree C or 1g of steam at 100 degree C Abdul Zaman 14/1/2008
Ans: Steam burns do have to potential to cause more damage than scalding. The reason has to do with the latent heat of vaporization. To convert 1 gram of water to steam requires about 540 calories ( latent heat of vaporization needed to break bonds) . The energy in the steam is 9-fold greater than the energy in the 1 gram of water at the boiling point (100 degree Celsius). This energy (as heat) is released when the steam condenses to water on the skin and the water cools to the temperature of skin. Steam will be substantially more injurious.
Q25: what is meant by brownian movements? zulkifel 13/8/2007
Ans: Brownian motion is a wobbly and irregular thermal molecular motion in the fluid ( liquid or gaseous) environment caused due to inter-molecular collision and molecule-container wall collisions. It is observed as an irregular thermal agitation movement of particles suspended in a fluid. Brownian motion increases as size of particle decreases and temperature increases. This lead to the development of kinetic theory where molecules had random motion
Q26: how does osmosis affect the kinetic theory of matter angela 3/4/2007
Ans: Macroscopically - osmosis is the rise of water separated by membrane in a u-tube in the portion in which solute is added. Kinetic theory explains this at microscopic level or molecular behavior of water when a solute is added more in terms of hydration cells formation, which pulls water through membrane, another kinetic theory is based on osmotic pressure due to collision of water molecules. This is in contrast to popular diffusion theory based on concentration gradient of water.
Q27: what is the differnce between boiling and evapourating elena katumba 13/3/2007
Ans: Evaporation is primarily a surface phenomenon. It takes place at all temperatures molecules at the surface of a liquid receive enough kinetic energy to break free from attraction of other molecules and escape while boiling takes place only at a specific temperature. It takes place all over the liquid, all the liquid molecules attain the boiling point and they escape from all depths of a liquid.
Q28: how can gas be turned into a solid? Jerry 20/2/2007
Ans: The difference between phases is kinetic energy of molecules; take out energy rapidly from the molecules the phase transition of vapour (or gas) to solid called deposition occurs, due to increased intermolecular attractions. Temperature has to be below freezing point for physical vapor deposition (PVD. At -78C carbon dioxide becomes a solid called dry ice. At frost point, ice forms on a solid surface, this is a solid deposition of water vapor. This is how snow forms in clouds.
Q29: what makes the rain come down frrom teh sky? Heather Ziegler 28/11/2006
Ans: Gravity
Q30: What is the pressure of gas Sebastian 17/10/2006
Ans: At macro level Pressure is force per unit area it acts in all directions at a point inside a gas. At the surface of a gas, there is a pressure force (equal to the pressure (force/area) times the surface area in a direction perpendicular to the surface), a vector quantity that acts perpendicular to the surface. At micro level it is collisions of molecules with the walls and surfaces of container that denote pressure.
Q31: can you give a simple experiment that can be used to test the ideas of the kinetic theory of matter Mone Palya 8/3/2006
Ans: Take a cup of ice, another of hot coffee and in a third cup mix some ice and hot coffee, put lab. Thermometers in each and take temperature readings. In the mixture, the temperature comes down faster. Explain on basis of the H2O molecules in ice take energy from H2O molecules of coffee, break bonds, and melt. Those in coffee give up energy and cool down, until equilibrium. Unmixed hot coffee cools down slower. We are uploading an animation on this soon.

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