Single component phase diagrams

From Soft-Matter
Revision as of 07:30, 8 November 2008 by Mumukeu (Talk | contribs)

Jump to: navigation, search

Back to Topics.

The simplest phase diagrams are pressure-temperature diagrams of a single simple substance, such as water. The axes correspond to the pressure and temperature. The phase diagram shows, in pressure-temperature space, the lines of equilibrium or phase boundaries between the three phases of solid, liquid, and gas.

A typical phase diagram. The dotted line gives the anomalous behaviour of water. The green lines mark the freezing point and the blue line the boiling point, showing how they vary with pressure.The markings on the phase diagram show the points where the free energy is non-analytic. The open spaces, where the free energy is analytic, correspond to the phases. The phases are separated by lines of non-analyticity, where phase transitions occur, which are called phase boundaries.

In the diagram on the left, the phase boundary between liquid and gas does not continue indefinitely. Instead, it terminates at a point on the phase diagram called the critical point. This reflects the fact that, at extremely high temperatures and pressures, the liquid and gaseous phases become indistinguishable[1], in what is known as a supercritical fluid. In water, the critical point occurs at around Tc=647.096 K (1,164.773 °R), pc=22.064 MPa (3,200.1 psi) and ρc=356 kg/m³.[2]

The existence of the liquid-gas critical point reveals a slight ambiguity in the above definitions. When going from the liquid to the gaseous phase, one usually crosses the phase boundary, but it is possible to choose a path that never crosses the boundary by going to the right of the critical point. Thus, the liquid and gaseous phases can blend continuously into each other. However, the solid-liquid phase boundary can only end in a critical point this way if the solid and liquid phases have the same symmetry group[citation needed].

Noteworthy is that the solid-liquid phase boundary in the phase diagram of most substances has a positive slope. This is due to the solid phase having a higher density than the liquid[citation needed], so that increasing the pressure increases the melting point; the temperature at which a substance melts. In some parts of the phase diagram for water the solid-liquid phase boundary has a negative slope (especially the portion corresponding to standard pressure). This reflects the fact that ice has a lower density than water, which is an unusual property for a material.

Back to Topics.