Mass is a physical property. 1 It is a measure of the amount of matter in a substance and remains constant regardless of its location or surroundings. Mass does not depend on chemical reactions and is an intrinsic characteristic of the material itself. 2
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Key Takeaways: Is Mass a Physical or Chemical Property?
- Mass is a physical property that quantifies the amount of matter in an object and remains constant regardless of its location or surroundings.
- Mass is not a chemical property because it does not involve chemical reactions or changes in chemical composition.
- Mass can be measured for solids using a balance, for liquids using volumetric flasks or graduated cylinders, and for gases by collecting them in containers with known volumes and weighing the apparatus.
Why is mass a physical property?
Mass is considered a physical property because it is a characteristic or attribute of a physical object that can be measured and quantified without changing the fundamental nature of the object itself. Physical properties are those that can be observed or measured without altering the substance’s chemical composition or identity. 3
Here are some key points that highlight why mass is a physical property:
- Measurability: Mass is a quantitative measure of the amount of matter in an object. It can be measured using various instruments like balances or scales. 4 The value of mass remains the same regardless of the object’s location or external conditions, as long as the object remains unchanged.
- Intrinsic property: Mass is an intrinsic property, meaning it depends solely on the object’s internal structure and the number of particles (atoms, molecules, or subatomic particles) it contains. 5 It is not influenced by external factors like temperature, pressure, or location.
- Conservation of mass: The law of conservation of mass states that mass is neither created nor destroyed during ordinary chemical reactions and physical changes. 6 The total mass of the substances involved before a reaction is equal to the total mass after the reaction.
- Standardization: Mass is a fundamental property used in various scientific disciplines, including physics, chemistry, engineering, and even everyday life. It is used as a standard unit of measurement in the International System of Units (SI), where the base unit for mass is the kilogram (kg). 7
- Differentiation between substances: Mass helps differentiate one substance from another. Different materials or substances have different mass values due to differences in their atomic or molecular compositions.
In summary, mass is a physical property because it is a measurable and intrinsic characteristic of matter that remains unchanged under normal physical conditions and is fundamental in understanding and describing the behavior of objects in the physical world.
Why is mass not a chemical property?
Mass is not a chemical property because it does not involve the interactions or transformations of substances at the atomic or molecular level. Chemical properties are characteristics of a substance that can only be observed or measured when the substance undergoes a chemical reaction or changes its chemical composition. 8
Chemical properties are related to the substance’s ability to react with other substances, its reactivity, and the chemical changes it undergoes. These properties describe how a substance interacts with other substances to form new products with different chemical compositions.
On the other hand, mass is a quantitative measure of the amount of matter in an object and is independent of its chemical composition. It is a physical property because it can be measured without altering the identity or nature of the substance.
The mass of an object remains the same regardless of whether it undergoes chemical reactions or changes in physical state (e.g., from solid to liquid or gas).
In summary, mass is not a chemical property because it is not related to the chemical behavior of a substance; instead, it is a physical property that remains constant regardless of the chemical changes that may occur.
How is mass measured for solids, liquids and gases?
Mass can be measured for solids, liquids, and gases using various methods and instruments. The specific techniques used may vary depending on the state of matter being measured.
Here’s how mass is typically measured for each state:
Measuring Mass of Solids:
The most common method for measuring the mass of solids is by using a balance or scale. A balance consists of a beam supported at its center with two pans hanging from each end.
The solid object whose mass is to be measured is placed on one pan, and standard weights are added to the other pan until the beam is balanced. The mass of the object is then determined by summing up the weights on the balanced pan.
Measuring Mass of Liquids:
For liquids, the mass is typically measured using an analytical balance or a specific type of scale known as a “volumetric flask” or “graduated cylinder.” First, the empty container (flask or cylinder) is weighed on the balance.
Then, the liquid is poured into the container, and the combined mass of the liquid and the container is measured. Finally, the mass of the empty container is subtracted from the combined mass to obtain the mass of the liquid alone.
Measuring Mass of Gases:
Measuring the mass of a gas can be a bit more challenging due to its nature, which allows it to fill the entire available space. A common method involves using a container with a known volume, such as a gas syringe. 9
The gas is collected in the container, and the entire apparatus is weighed on a balance. By knowing the volume and the mass of the gas collected, its mass can be calculated using the ideal gas law or other gas equations.
It’s important to note that when dealing with gases, the pressure and temperature can significantly affect the mass, so corrections may need to be applied to account for these factors. Also, modern instrumentation and techniques may involve more advanced methods for precise measurements of mass in each state of matter.
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- 3.5: Differences in Matter- Physical and Chemical Properties. (2016, April 4). Chemistry LibreTexts. https://chem.libretexts.org/Bookshelves/Introductory_Chemistry/Introductory_Chemistry/03%3A_Matter_and_Energy/3.05%3A_Differences_in_Matter-_Physical_and_Chemical_Properties
- 2.1: Matter, Mass, and Volume. (2022, March 16). Chemistry LibreTexts. https://chem.libretexts.org/Bookshelves/Introductory_Chemistry/Introductory_Chemistry_(CK-12)/02%3A_Matter_and_Change/2.01%3A_Matter_Mass_and_Volume
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- Arxiv.org https://arxiv.org/pdf/1512.03295.pdf
- Conservation of Energy and Mass. (n.d.). Conservation of Energy and Mass. https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/resource-library-conservation-energy-and-mass
- SI Units – Mass. (2011, March 30). NIST. https://www.nist.gov/pml/owm/si-units-mass
- Foundation, C. (n.d.). CK12-Foundation. CK12-Foundation. https://flexbooks.ck12.org/cbook/ck-12-middle-school-physical-science-flexbook-2.0/section/2.4/primary/lesson/chemical-properties-of-matter-ms-ps/
- Measuring the rate where a gas is produced – Rates of reaction – GCSE Chemistry (Single Science) Revision – WJEC – BBC Bitesize. (n.d.). BBC Bitesize. https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/z6bj2nb/revision/2