Physical Properties of Matter

As everyone knows, matter is "anything that has mass and occupies space". Now, let's learn more about the physical properties of matter, its existence in various phases, and the different states of it.
As we were taught in school, matter is described in the most common definition as any substance that has mass and occupies space. Every physical object is composed of matter in the form of atoms. These atoms are in turn composed of protons, neutrons, and electrons. Matter exists in four states: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. The state of most substances can transit between these various phases depending on the amount of heat the material absorbs or loses. For instance, heat can melt ice into water, and turn water into steam. Such an activity is known as transition between one phase to another. There are four general properties of matter, viz., weight, volume, mass, and density. Of these, mass is of great importance, as it is the amount of matter existing in an object.

Physical properties are concerned with the energy and states of matter. Properties of a substance that do not change the chemical nature of matter or produce a new substance are defined as the physical properties. Changes in state, like color, smell, crushing a can, melting an ice cube, or even breaking a bottle are some examples of physical properties.

Intensive Properties

These properties are extremely important and they do not depend on the amount of matter present in a substance. In short, it is a property independent of the amount of mass. This is because every kind of matter possesses a distinctive set of intensive properties that distinguish it from the other kind of matter. These include:
  • Color
  • Odor
  • Boiling Point
  • Freezing/Melting Point
  • Density
  • Lustere
  • Malleability (The property of a substance to be beaten into thin sheets)
  • Ductility (The ability of a substance to be drawn into threads, wires, etc.)
  • Conductivity (The ability of transmitting the flow of energy, electricity, and sound)
  • Hardness (The property of a substance being rigid and resistant to pressure)
These are some of the common examples of intensive properties.

Extensive Properties

Speaking of extensive properties, these depend on the amount of matter present in a substance. That is, they vary directly with the mass, volume, etc. These include:
  • Mass
  • Weight (A vertical force exerted by a mass on an object as a result of gravity)
  • Volume
  • Length
The table given below shows distinguishing characteristics between intensive and extensive properties. Here are a few samples to classify each of them:

Examples To Differentiate Between The Two Properties
Mass of iron present in bloodExtensive: depends on volume of blood in the body
Percentage of alcohol in beerIntensive: percentage is same for any similar sized sample
Electrical resistance of a piece of 50 gauge copper wireExtensive: depends on length of the wire
Mass of iron present in 10 ml of bloodIntensive: same for any 10 ml sample

In this manner, if a quantity of matter is divided into two equal parts, each of them will have the same value of intensive property and the other half will have an extensive one. Therefore, the more properties of matter we learn to identify for a particular substance, the better we learn the nature of that substance.