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Activity Number
Overview and Learning Objectives
Central Concepts
Textbook References
Benchmarks and Standards
Activity Credits

A Comparison of Liquid and Gas States (A 1-page study for advanced students)

Interactive model, with minimal support

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This Activity Requires:

  • Java 1.5+ - Java 1.5+ is available for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X 10.4 and greater. If you are using Mac OS X 10.3, you can download MW Version 1.3 and explore within it instead.

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Overview and Learning Objectives

In this activity, students can run molecular simulations of a substance in gas and liquid phases side by side long enough for a recorder to gather data. Advanced students can also open a graph of the pair correlation function (PCF) for each state of matter and observe how the attractive forces affecting a molecule in liquid phase result in it attracting other molecules in close proximity to itself, and at specific distances. They can observe that the gas phase molecule, on the other hand, has only a slight ability to attract other molecules close to it.

Students will be able to:

  • understand the difference in the arrangement and forces between molecules in dynamic gas and liquid states;
  • explain a graph that correlates the structural preference of molecules with their state of matter;
  • understand that mathematical functions can represent aspects of physical situations.

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Central Concepts

Key Concept:

In a gas phase, there is space between atoms, and these atoms move randomly and chaotically in space. Atoms in liquids are generally fairly close to one another. Viewed from the perspective of an atom, its neighboring atoms are able to move past one another to another position. The space left behind is then occupied by a different atom.

Additional Related Concepts


  • Gas
  • Liquid
  • States of Matter

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Textbook References

  • Biology (Miller and Levine) Prentice Hall 5th Edition - Unit I: Chapter 3 - Introduction to Chemistry
  • BSCS Blue (8th Edition) - Chapter 3: Exchanging Materials with the Environment

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Benchmarks and Standards


  • Physical-Science: Matter Structure/Properties - 5 Solids, liquids, and gases differ in the distances and angles between molecules (Full Text of Standard)

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Activity Credits

Created by CC Project: Molecular Workbench using Molecular Workbench

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  • Java 1.5+ - Java 1.5+ is available for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X 10.4 and greater. If you are using Mac OS X 10.3, you can download MW Version 1.3 and explore within it instead.

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Last Update: 12/07/2015 Maintainer: CC Web Team (webmaster@concord.org)
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These materials are based upon work supported
by the National Science Foundation under grant numbers
9980620, ESI-0242701 and EIA-0219345

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this
material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect
the views of the National Science Foundation.