Difference Between Physical and Chemical Properties

What Is the Difference Between a Chemical Property and a Physical Property?

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The volume of a sample are examples of physical properties. Flammability and reactivity are examples of chemical properties. Siede Preis / Getty Images

Measurable characteristics of matter may be categorized as either chemical or physical properties. What is the difference between a chemical property and a physical property? The answers has to do with chemical and physical changes of matter.

physical property is an aspect of matter that can be observed or measured without changing its chemical composition. Examples of physical properties include color, molecular weight and volume.

chemical property may only be observed by changing the chemical identity of a substance. In other words, the only way to observe a chemical property is by performing a chemical reaction. This property measures the potential for undergoing a chemical changeExamples of chemical properties include reactivity, flammability and oxidation states.

Telling Physical and Chemical Properties Apart

Sometimes it can be tricky to know whether or not a chemical reaction has occurred. For example, when you melt ice into water, you can write the process in terms of a chemical reaction. However, the chemical formula on both sides of the reaction is the same. Since the chemical identity of the matter in question is unchanged, this process represents a physical change. Thus melting point is a physical property. On the other hand, flammability is a chemical property of matter because the only way to know how readily a substance ignites is to burn it.

In the chemical reaction for combustion, the reactants and products are different.

Usually, you don't have the chemical reaction for a process. You can look for tell-tale signs of a chemical change. These include bubbling, color change, temperature change, and precipitation formation. If you see signs of a chemical reaction, the characteristic you are measuring is most likely a chemical property.

If these signs are absent, the characteristic is probably a physical property.

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Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Difference Between Physical and Chemical Properties." ThoughtCo, Feb. 14, 2018, thoughtco.com/difference-between-physical-and-chemical-properties-604142. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2018, February 14). Difference Between Physical and Chemical Properties. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/difference-between-physical-and-chemical-properties-604142 Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Difference Between Physical and Chemical Properties." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/difference-between-physical-and-chemical-properties-604142 (accessed February 22, 2018).