the Physics Education Technology Project
the National Science Foundation
This simulation helps learners visualize how molecules behave in solids, liquids, and gases. Add or remove heat and watch the motion of the molecules as they change phase. Push the pump and change the volume of matter in the closed container and watch the pressure gauge respond. More advanced students can compare the potential energy graphs for neon, argon, oxygen, and water -- which all have different interaction potential.
Editor's Note: This particular activity would be well paired with the PhET "Gas Properties" simulation, which goes into more depth to explore the behavior of gas molecules in a closed container. Together, the simulations promote understanding of gas laws, states of matter, phase change, and kinetic theory. See Related Materials for a link to exemplary lesson plans developed to accompany "States of Matter" simulation.
This item is part of a larger collection of simulations developed by the Physics Education Technology project (PhET).
Please note that this resource requires
Java Applet Plug-in.
gas laws, gas volume, molecular models, molecular structure, phase, phase change simulation, states of matter, states of matter simulation
Metadata instance created
July 18, 2011
by Caroline Hall
July 18, 2011
by Caroline Hall
Last Update when Cataloged:
July 5, 2011
AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)
4. The Physical Setting
4D. The Structure of Matter
6-8: 4D/M1a. All matter is made up of atoms, which are far too small to see directly through a microscope.
6-8: 4D/M2. Equal volumes of different materials usually have different masses.
6-8: 4D/M3cd. In solids, the atoms or molecules are closely locked in position and can only vibrate. In liquids, they have higher energy, are more loosely connected, and can slide past one another; some molecules may get enough energy to escape into a gas. In gases, the atoms or molecules have still more energy and are free of one another except during occasional collisions.
6-8: 4D/M7a. No matter how substances within a closed system interact with one another, or how they combine or break apart, the total mass of the system remains the same.
6-8: 4D/M8. Most substances can exist as a solid, liquid, or gas depending on temperature.
4E. Energy Transformations
6-8: 4E/M4. Energy appears in different forms and can be transformed within a system. Motion energy is associated with the speed of an object. Thermal energy is associated with the temperature of an object. Gravitational energy is associated with the height of an object above a reference point. Elastic energy is associated with the stretching or compressing of an elastic object. Chemical energy is associated with the composition of a substance. Electrical energy is associated with an electric current in a circuit. Light energy is associated with the frequency of electromagnetic waves.
9-12: 4E/H7. Thermal energy in a system is associated with the disordered motions of its atoms or molecules. Gravitational energy is associated with the separation of mutually attracting masses. Electrical potential energy is associated with the separation of mutually attracting or repelling charges.
9-12: 4E/H9. Many forms of energy can be considered to be either kinetic energy, which is the energy of motion, or potential energy, which depends on the separation between mutually attracting or repelling objects.
4G. Forces of Nature
9-12: 4G/H2a. Electric forces acting within and between atoms are vastly stronger than the gravitational forces acting between the atoms. At larger scales, gravitational forces accumulate to produce a large and noticeable effect, whereas electric forces tend to cancel each other out.
11. Common Themes
6-8: 11B/M1. Models are often used to think about processes that happen too slowly, too quickly, or on too small a scale to observe directly. They are also used for processes that are too vast, too complex, or too dangerous to study.
6-8: 11B/M4. Simulations are often useful in modeling events and processes.
6-8: 11D/M3. Natural phenomena often involve sizes, durations, and speeds that are extremely small or extremely large. These phenomena may be difficult to appreciate because they involve magnitudes far outside human experience.
This resource is part of 2 Physics Front Topical Units.
Topic: Particles and Interactions and the Standard Model Unit Title: Matter and Interactions
This simulation can help students visualize how molecules behave in solids, liquids, and gases. Add or remove heat and watch the motion of the molecules as they change phase. Push the pump and change the volume of matter in the closed container. More advanced students can compare the potential energy graphs for neon, argon, oxygen, and water (which all have different interaction potential).
Topic: Heat and Temperature Unit Title: Teaching about Heat and Thermal Energy
Great simulation to promote understanding of how molecules behave in solids, liquids, and gases. Add or remove heat and watch the motion of the molecules as they change phase. Push the pump and change the volume of matter in the closed container and watch the pressure gauge respond. More advanced students can compare the potential energy graphs for neon, argon, oxygen, and water -- which all have different interaction potential. For detailed Student Guide, see the item directly above.
National Science Foundation. PhET Simulation: States of Matter. Boulder: Physics Education Technology Project, July 5, 2011. http://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/states-of-matter (accessed 21 October 2014).
%0 Electronic Source %D July 5, 2011 %T PhET Simulation: States of Matter %I Physics Education Technology Project %V 2014 %N 21 October 2014 %8 July 5, 2011 %9 application/java %U http://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/states-of-matter
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