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Volatility (chemistry)

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Volatility in the context of chemistry, physics and thermodynamics is a measure of the tendency of a substance to vaporize. It has also been defined as a measure of how readily a substance vaporizes. At a given temperature, substances with higher vapor pressures will vaporize more readily than substances with a lower vapor pressure.[1][2][3][4]

Although usually applying to liquids, volatility can apply to solid materials such as dry ice (solid carbon dioxide) and ammonium chloride, which can change directly from solid to vapor without becoming liquid. The direct transition of a solid to a vapor is called sublimation.

Relation between vapor pressures and normal boiling points of liquidsEdit

Main article: Vapor pressure
Vapor Pressure Chart

A typical vapor pressure chart for various liquids

Vapor pressure is the pressure of a vapor which is in equilibrium with its non-vapor phases (i.e., liquid or solid). Most often the term is used to describe a liquid's tendency to Vaporise. It is a measure of the tendency of molecules and atoms to escape from a liquid or a solid. A liquid's atmospheric pressure boiling point corresponds to the temperature at which its vapor pressure is equal to the surrounding atmospheric pressure and it is often called the normal boiling point.

The higher the vapor pressure of a liquid at a given temperature, the higher the volatility and the lower the normal boiling point of the liquid.

The vapor pressure chart to the right has graphs of the vapor pressures versus temperatures for a variety of liquids.[5] As can be seen in the chart, the liquids with the highest vapor pressures have the lowest normal boiling points.

For example, at any given temperature, propane has the highest vapor pressure of any of the liquids in the chart. It also has the lowest normal boiling point (-42.1 °C), which is where the vapor pressure curve of propane (the purple line) intersects the horizontal pressure line of one atmosphere (atm) of absolute vapor pressure.

See alsoEdit


  1. Gases and Vapor (University of Kentucky website)
  2. Definition of Terms (University of Victoria website)
  3. James G. Speight (2006). The Chemistry and Technology of Petroleum (4th Edition ed.), CRC Press. ISBN 0-8493-9067-2. 
  4. Kister, Henry Z. (1992). Distillation Design (1st Edition ed.), McGraw-hill. ISBN 0-07-034909-6. 
  5. Perry, R.H. and Green, D.W. (Editors) (1997). Perry's Chemical Engineers' Handbook (7th Edition ed.), McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-049841-5. 

External linksEdit

hu:Illékonyság (kémia) nl:Vluchtigheidpl:Lotność (ciecz) pt:Volatilidade (química) sv:Flyktighet

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