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Chapter Two

Properties of Matter


Matter is anything that has weight and occupies space. Matter can be in the
form of a
• solid
• a liquid
• a gas
See the figure 2.1

Figure 2.1: The three states of matter

The knowledge about the properties of matter and their different states is
necessary to understand the refrigeration process in later modules.


A solid is matter that has a definite shape and volume. A solid also resists
forces that try to alter its shape or volume at normal temperatures and pressures.
Solids have the following properties:
• Volume
• Weight
• Density
• Solubility

2.1.1 Volume

The volume of a solid is a measure of how much space it occupies. A

common way to describe the volume of a solid is as a cube. Volume is measured in
cubic feet or cubic meters. Cubic values are found by multiplying the length, width,
and height of an object together.

2.1.2 Weight

Weight is a measure of the heaviness

of an object. See figure 2.2. The weight of a
solid refers only to how heavy it is. It has
nothing to do with size or what it is made of.
There are two different systems for
measuring weight. One system is the metric
system. It uses grams, kilograms, and metric
tons. The other system is the imperial
system. It uses pounds and tons.
Figure 2.2: Weight

2.1.3 Density

The density of a solid is its mass per unit

volume. This means how much a given volume
of material weighs.

A cubic centimeter of lead is heavier than

a cubic centimeter of aluminum, so lead is more
dense than aluminum. This is because the
atoms of lead are heavier than the atoms of
aluminum. So in any comparison between them,
when the same physical volume is used, lead will
Figure 2.3: Density and weight
always be the heavier one because it is more
dense. See figure 2.3

2.1.4 Solubility

Solubility is a measure of how easily a solid dissolves in a liquid. Compare

salt, sugar, and sand. All the three substances are solids in small granular form. Salt
and sugar dissolve in water. They are said to be soluble. Sand does not dissolve.
Sand is an example of a solid that is insoluble. See the figure 2.4.

Figure 2.4: Solubility


A liquid is a matter that flows freely without the tendency for its molecules to
separate. Liquids have the following properties:
• Volume • Volatility
• Weight • Viscosity
• Density and • Cohesion
Specific Gravity
• Compressibility • Adhesion
• Miscibility

2.2.1 Volume

Liquids are normally measured by their volume. The volume of a liquid is the
space the liquid occupies. The volume of a liquid is usually measured by the size of
its container, for example gallons, liters, and barrels.

2.2.2 Weight

The weight of a liquid is how heavy it is. Although liquids are usually
measured by volume, they are sometimes measured by weight also.
In servicing AC&R units, the weight of a liquid refrigerant is important while
charging a unit.

2.2.3 Density and Specific Gravity

Density is mass per unit volume. This means how heavy a liquid is for a
given volume. When we compare the densities of different liquids, we do not
compare them directly with each other; instead, we compare each with the density of
water. The ratio of the density of any liquid to the density of water is called the
specific gravity of that liquid. The specific gravity of water is 1.0. Liquids denser
than water have specific gravities higher than 1.0. Liquids less dense than water
have specific gravities lower than 1.0. For example, the specific gravity of gasoline is
0.751, and the specific gravity of mercury is 13.546.

2.2.4 Compressibility

Compressibility is the ability of matter to be reduced in size or volume by

squeezing. It is important to remember that liquids cannot be compressed.

2.2.5 Volatility

Volatility is the readiness of a liquid to turn to a gas at relatively low

temperatures. A volatile liquid changes into gas quickly when left uncovered at room
temperature. For example, gasoline is much more volatile than water.

2.2.6 Viscosity

Viscosity is a measure of a liquid’s resistance to flow. Heavy oils flow slowly.

They have high viscosity. Water and gasoline flow easily. They have low viscosity.
The viscosity of liquids changes according to the temperature. At high temperatures,
liquids flow more easily. At low temperatures, liquids flow less easily.

2.2.7 Cohesion

Cohesion is the property of a liquid that shows how well the molecules of the
liquid stick together. Motor oil is an example of a liquid with high cohesion.

2.2.8 Adhesion

Adhesion means how well the molecules of a liquid

stick to something else. See figure. Cohesion and adhesion
are important properties of oils and greases when they are
Used as lubricants.

2.2.9 Miscibility

Miscibility is the property that shows how easily a liquid can mix with another
Liquids that do not mix are called immiscible. For example, oil and water are
immiscible, they do not mix. See figure 2.6 below

Figure 2.6: Oil and Water are immiscible


A gas is a state of matter that has neither a definite shape nor volume, but
tends to expand indefinitely. Gases have the following properties:
• Volume, Pressure and Temperature.
• Density
• Compressibility
• Toxicity
• Flammability
• Inertness

2.3.1 Volume, Pressure and Temperature

Boyle’s law
Boyle’s law states that the pressure of a gas increases as its volume
decreases, if the temperature does not change. Molecules of the gas are pushed
closer together when the pressure is increased. Thus, the volume decreases. See
figure 2.7. Reverse occurs when the pressure decreases. The volume of gas

Figure 2.7: Gas Volume-Pressure Relationship At Constant Temperature

Charles’ law
Charles’ law states that the volume of a gas increases as its temperature
increases, if the pressure is not changed. See figure 2.8. Heating a gas causes it to
expand. Gas molecules gain energy when they are heated. They move faster,
travel farther, and strike the walls of the container more often. If the walls of the
container are flexible, the gas pushes them out, causing an increase in volume.

Figure 2.8: Gas Volume Temperature Relationship At Constant Pressure.

Charles’ law
Gay Lussac’s law states that the pressure of a gas increases as the
temperature increases, if the volume is not changed. See figure 2.9 below.

Figure 2.9: Gas Pressure-Temperature Relationship At Constant Volume

Gas volume is calculated at a standard temperature of 600F and a pressure

of 14.7 Psi. This is to eliminate the effects of temperature and pressure on gas

Volumes are normally measured in cubic feet. Since the standard

temperature and the pressure is used in the calculation, the unit of volume
measurement of gases is called Standard cubic feet.

The measurement of a gas is normally given in standard cubic feet (SCF).

This is due to the difficulty in physically weighing a gas.

2.3.2 Density

Density of a gas is the weight measure of a certain volume of gas. Density is

measured in pounds per standard cubic foot. (This means the number of pounds
weight that are in one standard cubic foot of gas). Often, the density of a gas is
compared to a standard density, such as air.
The density of a particular gas is always the same under the same
conditions. Different gases have different densities. It is important to know about
the density of gases while working with gases. It is important to be able to compare
gas density to air density. Methane (CH4) is less dense (lighter) than air, and will rise
and collect at the top of a closed space or room. Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and some

of the natural gas vapors are denser (heavier) than air, and so will fall to the bottom
of a room or low place on the ground.

2.3.3 Compressibility

To compress something means to squeeze it and make its volume smaller.

All gases can be compressed. In order to compress a gas, the gas must be
in some kind of container. Compressing a gas reduces its volume by squeezing the
gas molecules together. The more the gas is compressed, the less space it
occupies. Compressing a gas makes it hotter.

2.3.4 Toxicity

Some gases are toxic. This means they are poisonous. In the AC&R
industry, there are some refrigerants that are toxic. Some examples of toxic
refrigerants are ammonia and sulfur dioxide (rarely used)

2.3.5 Flammability

Some gases are flammable. This means they will burn, if ignited, in air.
Hydrocarbon gases are flammable whereas Freon refrigerants aren’t

2.3.6 Inertness

Some gases are inert. This means they do not react chemically with other
matter. They are not flammable under normal conditions. Nitrogen is an inert gas
which is used to remove air or clean AC&R tubing systems. Carbon dioxide and
halon are inert gases which are used to extinguish fires.


The key words in changing the state of matter are heat and pressure. Matter
can be changed from one state to another state by adding or taking away heat.
Pressure affects the point at which matter changes. Water is a good example.
Water is a liquid. It can be changed from liquid into vapor (gas) by heating it to its
boiling point. Reducing the pressure lowers the boiling point. The water vapor is
called steam. Water can be changed from the liquid state to the solid state by taking
away heat until its freezing point is reached. The solid state of water is called ice.
See figure 2.10. The refrigeration cycle is based on vaporization and condensation.
In this section, water is used as an example for a discussion on the basic principles
of liquid vapor pressure temperature relationship.
Water can change from a liquid to a gas or a vapor. It can change slowly or it
can change rapidly. Two things in combination affect this change, the temperature

of the water and the pressure on the water. A slow change is called evaporation and
a fast change is called vaporization or boiling.

Figure 2.10: Changing the State of Matter

2.4.1 Evaporation

Why does water in an open dish at room temperature slowly disappear, even
if it is not boiling? Heat is the key to change of state. All molecules above absolute
zero, -4600F, have motion from heat energy. The individual water molecules in the
liquid water eventually get enough energy to break away from the surface of the
water and go into the atmosphere as a vapor. The hotter the water, the faster it
evaporates. The colder the water, the slower it evaporates. Evaporation occurs
even at very low temperatures.

2.4.2 Vapor Pressure

If some water is put in a closed container, a certain number of molecules get

enough energy to escape from the water as vapor. A certain number of molecules
lose energy and return to the water. At any given temperature, the number of
molecules leaving and entering the water is the same. The number of molecules in
the vapor depends on the temperature of the container. The vapor pressure created
by the molecules varies with the temperature.

2.4.3 Vaporization (Boiling)

If some water is put in an open container over a fire, after a period of time it
starts to boil or vaporize. Boiling is a rapid change of state from liquid to gas. The
molecules in the liquid get more energy from the heat and can break away much

faster. At sea level the temperature of boiling water is 2120F. This is the boiling
point of water at sea level.
At its boiling point, the vapor pressure of a liquid equals the pressure of the
surrounding atmosphere. Therefore, the boiling point changes with changes to the
pressure of the atmosphere. As the pressure decreases, less heat energy is needed
to cause the water to boil, causing the boiling point to drop.
Atmospheric pressure decreases at high elevations. With lower atmospheric
pressure on a mountain top, liquids boil at lower temperatures. The boiling point of a
liquid is the point where the vapor pressure is equal to the surrounding pressure on
the liquid. See the figure 2.11 below.

Figure 2.11: Reducing Pressure Reduces the Boiling Point

If you increase the pressure, more energy is needed to vaporize the liquid,
and the boiling point goes up. Pressure caps on automobile radiators prevent the
water from boiling at 2120F. A 15 Psi cap will prevent the water from boiling until it
reaches about 2500F. Pressure cookers use the same principle for faster cooking.
The temperature of boiling water inside a pressure cooker is hotter than the
temperature of water boiling in the atmosphere.


Condensation is the reverse of vaporization and evaporation. When the

temperature of a vapor decreases or the pressure on a vapor increases, more of the
molecules return to the liquid state. It condenses. Rain is a good example of

condensed water vapor. As water vapor from the surface of the earth rises in the
atmosphere, it gets colder. The water molecules lose the energy they gained to
become a vapor and return to the liquid state.
A vapor can also be condensed by compressing it. By compressing a gas, it
raises the temperature at which it will condense.


Sensible heat is the heat that causes a change in temperature. The amount
of sensible heat needed by different liquids to reach the boiling point is different. In
other words, different liquids need different amounts of Btu’s to raise their
temperature one degree Fahrenheit.


Different liquids need different amounts of sensible heat to reach the boiling
point. Once the boiling point is reached, however, the temperature of the liquid stays
at the boiling point until all the liquid is vaporized. The vapor is also at the same
temperature. The temperature of boiling water is 2120F and the temperature of the
steam coming from the boiling water is also 2120F.
Heat which brings about a change of state, with no change in temperature, is
called latent (hidden) heat. There are two kinds of latent heat.

2.7.1 Latent Heat of Vaporization

It is the heat necessary to change one pound of a liquid to a vapor without a

change in temperature at standard atmospheric pressure. An equal amount of heat
must be removed to change the vapor to a liquid (condensation)
A common example of latent heat of vaporization is the heat it takes to boil
water out of a beaker. When the water reaches the boiling temperature of 212
degrees at sea level, the temperature ceases to rise. The water then boils at 212
degrees, using great quantities of heat, until the water is boiled away.

2.7.2 Latent Heat of Fusion

It is the heat necessary to change one pound of a solid to a liquid without a

change in temperature at standard atmospheric pressure. An equal amount of heat
must be removed to change the liquid to a solid.
A common example of latent heat of fusion is the heat it takes to melt ice into
Adding latent heat to a substance can change a solid to a liquid or from a
liquid to a vapor without changing its temperature. Removal of latent heat changes
the vapor to a liquid or a liquid to a solid. For example, 970 Btu’s of latent heat are

required to vaporize 1 pound of boiling water. To condense 1 pound of steam at
2120F, 970 Btu’s need to be removed. Different liquids require different amounts of
latent heat for vaporization. Figure 2.12 shows the required heat to vaporize one
pound of ice.

Figure 2.12: Sensible and latent Heats to Vaporize one Pound of ICE

From A to B, 36.3 Btu’s were added to heat ice from -400F to 320F.
From B to C, 144 Btu’s were added to melt ice. From C to D, 180 Btu’s were added
to heat water from 320F to 2120F. From D to E, 970 Btu’s were added to vaporize
the water. Note that the temperature did not change. Most of the heat is absorbed
between D and E. The same idea is applied in refrigeration. A refrigerant absorbs
lot of heat when changing from liquid to vapor.