The States of Matter
The term state can be defined as a set of conditions that describe a person or thing at a given time. It is in this sense of the word that scientists divide matter into the three states shown in the figure below.
|The three states of matter have characteristic properties. Solids have a distinct shape. When they melt, the resulting liquid conforms to the shape of its container. Gases expand to fill their containers.|
There are two reasons for studying gases before liquids or solids. First, the behavior of gases is easier to describe because most of the properties of gases do not depend on the identity of the gas. We can therefore develop a model for a gas without worrying about whether the gas is O2, N2, H2, or a mixture of these gases. Second, a relatively simple, yet powerful, model known as the kinetic molecular theory is available, which explains most of the behavior of gases.
Elements or compounds that are Gases at Room Temperature
Before examining the chemical and physical properties of gases, it might be useful to ask: What kinds of elements or compounds are gases at room temperature? To help answer this question, a list of some common compounds that are gases at room temperature is given in the table below.
Common Gases at Room Temperature
|Element or Compound||Atomic or Molecular Weight|
|HCN (hydrogen cyanide)||27.03|
|CO (carbon monoxide)||28.01|
|NO (nitrogen oxide)||30.01|
|H2S (hydrogen sulfide)||34.08|
|HCl (hydrogen chloride)||36.46|
|CO2 (carbon dioxide)||44.01|
|N2O (dinitrogen oxide)||44.01|
|NO2 (nitrogen dioxide)||46.01|
|SO2 (sulfur dioxide)||64.06|
|BF3 (boron trifluoride)||67.80|
|SF6 (sulfur hexafluoride)||146.05|
There are several patterns in the table above.
As a general rule, compounds that consist of relatively light, covalent molecules are most likely to be gases at room temperature.