A vapor (American spelling) or vapour (see spelling differences) is a substance in the gas phase at a temperature lower than its critical point.[1] This means that the vapor can be condensed to a liquid or to a solid by increasing its pressure without reducing the temperature.For example, water has a critical temperature of 374 °C (647 K), which is the highest temperature at which liquid water can exist. In the atmosphere at ordinary temperatures, therefore, gaseous water (known as water vapor) will condense to liquid if its partial pressure is increased sufficiently.A vapor may co-exist with a liquid (or solid). When this is true, the two phases will be in equilibrium, and the gas pressure will equal the equilibrium vapor pressure of the liquid (or solid).[2]

Water condenses into visible droplets after evaporating from a cup of hot tea. Photographer: Jarombouts


Vapor refers to a gas phase at a temperature where the same substance can also exist in the liquid or solid state, below the critical temperature of the substance. If the vapor is in contact with a liquid or solid phase, the two phases will be in a state of equilibrium. The term gas refers to a compressible fluid phase. Fixed gases are gases for which no liquid or solid can form at the temperature of the gas (such as air at typical ambient temperatures). A liquid or solid does not have to boil to release a vapor.Vapor is responsible for the familiar processes of cloud formation and condensation. It is commonly employed to carry out the physical processes of distillation and headspace extraction from a liquid sample prior to gas chromatography.The constituent molecules of a vapor possess vibrational, rotational, and translational motion. These motions are considered in the kinetic theory of gases.For example, water has a critical temperature of 374 °C (647 K), which is the highest temperature at which liquid water can exist.

Adjusted water solid-liquid coexistence. Author: Matthieumarechal

Vapor pressure

The vapor pressure is the equilibrium pressure from a liquid or a solid at a specific temperature. The equilibrium vapor pressure of a liquid or solid is not affected by the amount of contact with the liquid or solid interface.

The normal boiling point of a liquid is the temperature at which the vapor pressure is equal to one atmosphere (unit).[3]

Binary Boiling Point Diagram (graph) of a hypothetical mixture of two components without an azeotrope. An example isotherm line is shown to compare vapor and liquid compositions at that temperature. Author: H Padleckas - derivative work: Michbich

For two-phase systems (e.g., two liquid phases), the vapor pressure of the system is the sum of the vapor pressures of the two liquids. In the absence of stronger inter-species attractions between like-like or like-unlike molecules, the vapor pressure follows Raoult's Law, which states that the partial pressure of each component is the product of the vapor pressure of the pure component and its mole fraction in the mixture. The total vapor pressure is the sum of the component partial pressures.[4]

The physical chemistry behind distillation is based on manipulating the equilibrium occurring between the liquid and vapor phases of a molecule in solution.


Measuring vapor

Since it is in the gas phase, the amount of vapor present is quantified by the partial pressure of the gas. Also, vapors obey the barometric formula in a gravitational field just as conventional atmospheric gases do.

Vapors of flammable liquids

Flammable liquids do not burn when ignited. It is the vapor cloud above the liquid that will burn if the vapor's concentration is between the Lower Flammable Limit (LFL) and Upper Flammable Limit (UFL) of the flammable liquid.

See also
  1. ^ R.H.Petrucci, W.S.Harwood and F.G.Herring, "General Chemistry", 8th edition (Prentice-Hall 2002), p.486
  2. ^ Petrucci et al. p.483
  3. ^ Petrucci et al. p.484
  4. ^ Thomas Engel and Philip Reid, "Physical Chemistry" (Pearson Benjamin-Cummings 2006) p.194

Phase change - en.svg

States of matter

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