List of Phase Changes Between States of Matter

Sublimating chemicals
Sublimating chemicals. Wolfgang Amri / Getty Images
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List of Phase Changes of Matter

This diagram shows phase changes between solid, liquid, gas, and plasma states of matter.
This diagram shows the phase changes that occur between solid, liquid, gas, and plasma states of matter. Flanker, penubag (public domain)

Matter undergoes phase changes or phase transitions from one state of matter to another. Here is a list of the names of the phase changes. If you are asked to list 6 phase changes, state the ones between solids, liquids, and gasses. However, plasma also is a state of matter, so if you are asked to name 8 phase changes, list them all:

  1. Melting
    solid → liquid
    Example: Melting of an ice cube into water.
  2. Freezing
    liquid → solid
    Examples: Freezing sweetened cream into ice cream.
  3. Vaporization
    liquid → gas
    Example: Evaporation of alcohol into its vapor.
  4. Condensation
    gas → liquid
    Example: Condensation of water vapor into dew drops.
  5. Deposition
    gas → solid
    Example: Deposition of silver vapor in a vacuum chamber onto a surface to make a solid layer for a mirror.
  6. Sublimation
    solid → gas
    Example: Sublimation of dry ice (solid carbon dioxide) into carbon dioxide gas. Another example is when ice directly transitions into water vapor on a cold, windy winter day.
  7. Ionization
    gas → plasma
    Example: Ionization of particles in the upper atmosphere to form the aurora. Ionization may be observed inside a plasma ball novelty toy.
  8. Recombination
    plasma → gas
    Example: Turning off power to a neon light, allowing the ionized particles to return to the gas phase.

Why Do Phase Changes Occur?

Phase changes typically occur when the temperature or pressure of a system is altered. When temperature or pressure increase, molecules interact more with each other. When pressure increases or temperature decreases, it's easier for atoms and molecules to settle into a more rigid structure. When pressure is released, it's easier to particles to move away from each other.

For example, at normal atmospheric pressure, ice melts as the temperature increases. If you held the temperature steady but lowered the pressure, eventually you would reach a point where the ice would undergo sublimation directly to water vapor.

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Phase Changes of States of Matter

The vapor is from dry ice sublimating into vapor and water vapor condensing into fog.
The vapor is from dry ice sublimating into vapor and water vapor condensing into fog. Matt Meadows / Getty Images

 Another way to list phase changes is by states of matter:

Solids: Solids can melt into liquids or sublime into gases. Solids form by deposition from gases or freezing of liquids.

Liquids: Liquids can vaporize into gases or freeze into solids. Liquids form by condensation of gases and melting of solids.

Gases: Gases can ionize into plasma, condense into liquids, or undergo deposition into solids. Gases form from sublimation of solids, vaporization of liquids, and recombination of plasma.

Plasma: Plasma can recombine to form a gas. Plasma most often forms from ionization of a gas, although if sufficient energy and enough space is available, it's presumably possible for a liquid or solid to ionize directly into a gas.

Phase changes aren't always clear when observing a situation. For example, if you view the sublimation of dry ice into carbon dioxide gas, the white vapor that is observed is mostly water that is condensing from water vapor in the air into fog droplets.

Multiple phase changes can occur at once. For example, frozen nitrogen will form both the liquid phase and vapor phase when exposed to normal temperature and pressure.

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Your Citation
Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "List of Phase Changes Between States of Matter." ThoughtCo, Jun. 29, 2017, Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2017, June 29). List of Phase Changes Between States of Matter. Retrieved from Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "List of Phase Changes Between States of Matter." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 23, 2017).