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Materials

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Materials

Materials are the substances that make up an object. Objects, therefore, are composed of materials. Materials can be pure, consisting of only one element, or they can be made up of a mixture of several elements (also known as compounds).

Properties of materials

Materials can be very complex and consist of a mixture of substances, with each substance, in turn, being composed of several elements. Each material has different physical properties.

The properties of the material vary depending on the elements or substances of which it is composed. The properties can determine how the material behaves. See these examples of a solid and a liquid material:

Diamonds are composed of carbon atoms packed together at high pressure and heat, which turns them into a crystal and makes them very hard. The force that keeps the atoms together is so strong that diamonds are the hardest natural object known on earth.

Pure water is composed of water molecules. The forces that keep these molecules together are weaker than those operating in a solid. It is the weakness of those forces that gives water the ability to flow.

Materials. Diamond. Carbon structure. StudySmarterFigure 1. Diamonds consist of carbon, which is opaque and fragile. However, under great pressure and heat, the carbon atoms reorder, creating a crystal clear object. Source: Géry Parent, Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0).

The properties of a material depend on the structure of its atoms and the forces that keep the material together. This also affects its state of aggregation or state of matter: liquids have small forces binding them together, solids have large forces, and gases have almost no forces binding them together.

Properties of solid materials

The properties of solid materials are defined by the strength of the atoms or molecules that keep them together. In the case of solids, we can distinguish between chemical and physical properties. Some of the physical properties are also known as bulk properties (see below).

Physical properties of solid materials

The physical properties of solid materials can be intensive or extensive, and their classification depends on how the property reacts to an increase in mass.

If a mass increase modifies the property, it is an extensive property. If an increase in mass does not affect the physical property, it is an intensive property. See the following list of extensive and intensive properties:

Extensive properties :

  • Mass, measured in kg.
  • Volume, measured in cubic units.
  • Length, measured in metres.

Intensive properties :

  • Density, measured in mass over volume.
  • Temperature, measured in degrees (Celsius, Fahrenheit, Rankine, or Kelvin).
  • Conductivity, measured in Siemens per length of material.
  • Malleability, measured in pressure units.

Material colours

An extraordinary property of materials is their colours, which are caused by the reflection of light when the electromagnetic waves in the visible spectrum (light as you know it) impact an object. The way an objects atoms or molecules are arranged also affects a materials colour.

The property of the colour of materials is used by areas of science that study light reflected by objects to understand which elements are responsible for the composition of objects.

What is a bulk property in a solid?

Solids exhibit properties, such as density, elasticity, conductivity, etc., which determine how the atoms in the solid work together as a bulk. The bulk properties are directly related to the solids composition and how its atoms are bound together. These bulk properties are important in engineering applications, as they can tell us how the solid works and what forces it can withstand. Some bulk properties are listed below:

  • Density, measured in kg / m ^ 3.
  • Conductivity, measured in S / m ^ 3, where S is Siemens.
  • Elasticity, measured in Pascals (Pa).
  • Hardness, measured in Pascals.

Density

Density is described as a materials mass per unit of volume. The volume in solids depends on how tightly packed their particles are. The elements that make up the solid can affect this, as in the following two examples:

Diamonds are denser than graphite, but both consist of carbon. The atoms in a diamond are so close and tight that they occupy less space, which is why there are more atoms in a piece of diamond than in a similar-sized piece of graphite. The density of a diamond is approximately 3.5 g / cm ^ 3, that of graphite, approximately 2.7 g / cm ^ 3.

Materials. Graphite. Diamonds. Density. StudySmarterFigure 2. The graphite in a pencil is made of the same element as a diamond but is less dense. Source: Steven Lilley, Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

A piece of uranium is denser than a piece of diamond and weighs more, even when both are of the same size. The reason uranium is denser than a diamond is that a uranium atom is heavier than a carbon atom. Uranium has more particles (neutrons and protons) that make up most of the atoms mass. The density of a diamond is approximately 3.5 g / cm ^ 3, that of uranium approximately 19 g / cm ^ 3.

Conductivity

Conductivity defines how easily a material conducts electricity. It describes how the atoms electrons and its structure work together to move electrical charges from one place to another.

Elasticity

Elasticity is the property that tells us how easy it is to deform an object. Elastic objects deform when very little strength is applied. Examples of elastic materials include rubber and metals. Any object or material that does not deform easily is named inelastic.

Hardness

Hardness is the property that defines how strongly a material resists deformation over a small area, as, for instance, when you push the lead of a pencil into an object and the object offers resistance against the lead. A materials hardness is related to how the atoms or substances of which it is composed are bonded together. For example, a diamonds atoms are strongly bonded together, which makes it a hard material.

How do we measure bulk properties?

A materials bulk properties are measured using mechanical tests. During each test, materials are exposed to forces that seek to deform, penetrate, or compress them. The experiments measure the force values against the deformations made in the object.

Every bulk property can be measured using mechanical tests. Some of these are listed below:

  • Conductivity test: passing an electrical current through a material.
  • Elasticity test: deforming a material by pulling it or compressing it.
  • Hardness test: pushing a sharp, hard object against the material and increasing the force used to push that object.

Materials - key takeaways

  • Materials are the substances that make up an object.
  • The composition of a material can be simple, consisting of only one element, or very complex, consisting of several substances (which may be composed of several elements).
  • Materials have intensive and extensive properties. These are related to an objects mass or atomic composition.
  • If the properties depend on a materials mass, they are extensive.
  • If the properties do not depend on a materials mass, they are intensive.
  • Bulk properties are intensive properties, which depend on how the atoms of the object work together.
  • Bulk properties include hardness, elasticity, conductivity, and density. A materials properties can be measured using various mechanical tests.

Frequently Asked Questions about Materials

Materials are the components that make up an object, giving it its properties, such as hardness, elasticity, etc.

The structure of the atoms that make up the material and the forces that bind them together determine a material’s state of matter. For example, gases have almost no force that keeps their molecules or atoms together, while solids are bound together by strong forces. The atoms of solids also possess a clear structure, while gases and liquids lack any such structure.

Final Materials Quiz

Question

What are materials?

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Answer

Materials are the substances that an object consists of.

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Question

Why does water flow so easily?

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Answer

The weakness of the water molecules gives water its ability to flow.

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Question

How can the forces that bind atoms together modify an object’s properties?

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Answer

Large forces keep the atoms together, thus producing solids, while small forces or a lack of forces allow liquids to flow.

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Question

Do the atoms or molecules of liquids and gases possess a clear structure?

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Answer

No, they do not possess a clear structure.



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Question

What is hardness?

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Answer

The ability of a material to resist penetration.

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Question

Name the hardest known material.

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Answer

Diamonds.

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Question

Are pencil leads and diamonds made of the same element?

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Answer

Yes, they are.

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Question

How do diamonds obtain their hardness?

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Answer

From the high pressure and heat to which they were exposed while forming.

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Question

Name some extensive properties.

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Answer

Mass, volume, length.

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Name some intensive properties.

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Answer

Density, temperature, conductivity, malleability.

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What is a bulk property?

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Answer

A property that describes how atoms work together in bulk.

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Question

What is conductivity, and what is its unit?

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Answer

Conductivity defines how easily a material conducts electricity. It is measured in Siemens over cubic metres or S/m^3.

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Question

What is elasticity, and what is its unit?

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Answer

Elasticity defines how easily a material deforms. It is measured in Pascals.

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Question

How do we measure a material’s properties?

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Answer

By conducting mechanical tests to determine each property.

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