List of Phase Changes Between States 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. Below is a complete list of the names of these phase changes. The most commonly known phase changes are those six between solids, liquids, and gasses. However, plasma also is a state of matter, so a complete list requires all eight total phase changes.

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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Melting (Solid → Liquid)

Melting ice cube, close up
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Example: Melting of an ice cube into water.

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Freezing (Liquid → Solid)

Directly Above Shot Of Ice Cream Maker
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Example: Freezing sweetened cream into ice cream.

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Vaporization (Liquid → Gas)

 Example: Evaporation of alcohol into its vapor.

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Condensation (Gas → Liquid)

Dew drops on plants
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 Example: Condensation of water vapor into dew drops.

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Deposition (Gas → Solid)

Example: Deposition of silver vapor in a vacuum chamber onto a surface to make a solid layer for a mirror.

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Sublimation (Solid → Gas)

Sublimation of dry ice
RBOZUK / Getty Images

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.

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Ionization (Gas → Plasma)

Plasma ball
Oatpixels / Getty Images

Example: Ionization of particles in the upper atmosphere to form the aurora. Ionization may be observed inside a plasma ball novelty toy.

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Recombination (Plasma → Gas)

Neon open sign
artpartner-images / Getty Images

Example: Turning off power to a neon light, allowing the ionized particles to return to the gas phase.

Phase Changes of States of Matter

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.