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Matter, Its Properties and Its Transformation-Module 2 (Physics and Technology)

Updated on January 13, 2020
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Learning Objectives

  • Define mass, weight, volume, and density.
  • Measure mass, weight, volume, and density.
  • State and distinguish between the physical properties of matter.
  • Define length, time and temperature.
  • Measure length, time and temperature.
  • Explain what is meant by thermal insulation and state its importance.
  • Explain what is meant by electrical insulation and state its importance.

General properties of matter

The four general properties of matter are; mass, weight, volume, and density.


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    Mass is the most important of the four general properties of matter. Mass is the amount of matter that is found in an object. That is the amount of “stuff’ it has. Mass does not change. The mass has a direct relationship with inertia. Inertia is the resistance that a body offers to the change in its state either of rest or of uniform motion in a straight line at a constant speed. An object that has a greater mass also has greater inertia. Mass is measured using a balance.

    Measurement of mass

    Mass is measured using an instrument called balance. There are different types of balances namely:- Compression balance, top pan balance, lever-arm

    Some daily uses of measuring mass

    Buying and selling of most items are done by measuring their masses.

    Examples of such items include; meat, fresh fish, groundnuts, flour, salt,

    cement, Savon, powdered milk, feed for animals. In some situations, the

    mass is measured in advance and labeled on the items.

    Drug prescription and dosage in some situations is conditioned by the mass of the patient. For example, efferalgan, paracetamol is restricted to adults and children of mass 13 kg or more.

    To produce a drug, feed for an animal, the ingredients to bake a cake or bread, the masses of the different proportion are respected.

    Because weight is based on the force of gravity, an object’s weight may change from place to place. For example, if you weigh 120kg on earth, your weight will be 20kg on the moon. This is because the Earth’s gravitational force is 6 times stronger than that of the moon. This means that if you want your weight to change you just need to move from one planet to another. However, if your mass on earth is 80kg you will still have the same mass on the moon and on other planets. This means that if you want to lose mass, Stop eating fatty foods and do a little exercise. Weight is measured using a Newton meter.

    Unit of Weight

    The S.I unit of weight is Newton symbolized with the letter N. This unit is named after Isaac Newton as recognition of his Conti button to physics.

    Measurement of volume

    It is a little tricky to measure the volume of gases but to measure the volume of a liquid; you will use a measuring cylinder for precise measurement and a beaker or flask for less precise measurements.

    Measuring the volume of a regularly shaped cuboid object

    Measure the length (l), width (w) and height (h) of the object using a

    metre rule or ruler

    Measuring the volume of objects which float

    A metal object such as a brass weight can be used as a ‘sinker’. By attaching a sinker, the floating object can be pulled down below the surface of the water in a measuring cylinder or displacement can.

    • Find the volume of the sinker alone
    • Find the volume of the object plus sinker
    • Subtract the readings to obtain the volume of the object alone.

    Units of Volume

    The standards units are millilitres (ml), centilitres (cl), liter (1) and

    cubic centimeters (cm' or c.c). However, the S.I unit of volume is metre

    cubed (m3).

    Conversion of units

    1cm^3 = 1ml, 100c! = 11, 1000ml = 11, lm^3=10cm^3


    The matter was defined as easier as anything that has mass and volume. Scientists use these two properties to calculate the density of any given type of matter. Density is defined as the mass per unit volume of an object or mass. Density allows us to compare different types of matter that exist. For example, which has a higher density? Lead or wood? To answer this question; you need to know the volume of each of the objects and their respective masses. And the density ( p) calculated using the formula Density = mass/volume

    Some Simple Measurements

    1. Measuring Length (and distance)

    Length tells us how for one point is from another. Some examples of

    instruments used to measure length include; ruler, tape, Vernier caliper,

    micrometer screw gauge, measuring wheel.

    The S.I unit of length is the metre (m). Larger distances are measured in

    kilometer (km) while shorter distances are measured in centimeter (cm) and millimeter (mm).

    1 km = 1000 m

    100 cm = 1 m

    1000 mm = 1 m.

    . Measuring Time

    Time tells us how long an event occurs. For example, the time for one lesson is 50 minutes. It is measured using a stopwatch, a watch, a clock or other kinds of timers. The S.I unit of time is the second (s) ok. Larger units include the minutes (min), hour (h), day, week, month, year and century.

    1 minute = 60 seconds

    1 hour = 60 minutes = 3600 seconds

    1 day = 24 hours

    1 week = 7 days

    1 year = about 365 days.

    Physical Properties of Matter

    A physical property is any characteristic that can .be observed or measured without changing the composition of the substances in the material. It describes how the substance looks, feels, tastes, etc. These characteristics of matter also include its mass, weight, volume, and density. It also specifically describes its odor, shape, texture, and hardness.

    The physical properties of matter can be classified into two classes namely; Intensive and extensive

    Intensive properties

    These are properties that do not depend on the amount of matter present.

    They are;

    a) Colour,

    b) Odor

    c) Luster - How shiny a substance is

    d) Malleability - The ability of a substance to be beaten into thin sheets

    e) Ductility - The ability of a substance to be drawn into thin wires

    f) Conductivity - The ability of a substance to allow the flow of energy electricity

    g) Hardness - How easily a substance can be scratched

    h) Melting/freezing point - The temperature at which the solid and liquid

    phases of a substance are in equilibrium at atmospheric pressure.

    i) Boiling point - The temperature at which the vapor pressure of a liquid is equal to the pressure in the liquid (usually atmospheric pressure)

    External Properties

    These are properties that depend on the amount of matter present. These

    properties are;

    1. Mass - It is the measure of the amount of matter in a substance

    2. Weight - It is the measure of the earth’s gravitational pull (attraction) on the object

    3. Volume -It is the measure of the amount of space a substance occupies.

    4. Length - Length tells us how far one point is from another

    5. Density - The mass of a substance divided by the volume.

    2.12 Physical Characteristics of Matter

    Physical characteristics are properties that describe how the substance

    looks, feels, tastes, etc. this describes what it is. These characteristics of

    matter include its mass, weight, volume, and density. It also specifically

    describes its’ odor, shape, texture and hardness.

    Phases (States) of Matter

    Matter exists in three main phases namely, solid, liquid and gases. Matter can exist in any of these phases depending upon other factors. These factors include temperature and pressure. These phases can be technically called “energy states of matter” because matter exists in a particular phase depending upon how fast the particles that make it up are moving.

    Solid Phase of Matter

    A pen, a metal coin, and a ruler are all solids. They all share two important properties or characteristics. Solids have a definite shape and a definite volume in it surface. The particles that make up a solid are packed tightly together and remain in a fixed position. They vibrate back and forth in their fixed places. This allows a solid to keep its shape since the particles cannot move from their places and flow around each other. Solids that form a regular, repeating pattern with their particles are called crystals.

    Liquid Phase of Matter

    Particles in a liquid are close together but they do not remain in a fixed position they are free to move about. Particles in a liquid move faster than those in solid. For these reasons, they do not have a definite shape. They instead take the shape of their containers. A liquid in a cube is square in shape, but the same liquid in a j an r is round. Although liquids do not have a definite shape, they do have a definite volume. A liter of coca-cola in a bottle has the same volume if it is poured into a cup but a different shape. Even- though particles in a liquid are always close to each other, (always touching they flow around each other). Liquid from different substances does not flow at the same rate. For example, if you pour water and honey, you will discover that water flows faster than honey. The measure of how easily a liquid flows is called viscosity ok.

    Gas Phase of Matter

    Gas doesn't have a definite shape nor a definite volume they are shapeless and can be compressed. A gas fills all the available space in the container, regardless of the size or shape of the container. This is because the particles in a gas are moving very rapidly and are spread apart. There are a lot of empty spaces between these particles. Some move as fast as 500m/s. These gas particles are constantly whizzing, around and bumping into each other and the walls of the container. They may undergo several collisions per second. The volume and temperature of a gas depend upon the pressure. The pressure of a gas is the measure of the number of collisions between particles and the walls of its container. The temperature of the gas also determines the pressure, as particles move faster as temperature rises. Thus, there are more collisions and higher pressure.


    We are made of matter; this textbook also matters. All the materials that we can hold or touch are matter. The air we breathe every second is a matter even though we cannot see it. However, the light that we see, sounds that we hear and electricity whose effects we either see or feel does not matter. This is because they have no mass and hence no volume. The matter is defined as anything that has mass and occupies space.


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