Why is it important to understand the properties of gases?

1 Answer
Jan 16, 2016

Superficially, it might seem that gas properties are unimportant. I will try to show that such gas properties are fundamental to our atomic and molecular perspective on matter.


Both solids and liquids are hard things to study. Methods of investigation do exist today; they are usually highly specialized, and require ideas that had already been developed in the historical study of gases.

On the other hand, gases are (relatively) easy to study. We could fill up a balloon or a bladder (including a Montgolfier balloon); we could measure the volume; we could (sometimes) measure the mass; we could certainly measure the temperature. Early chemists and physicists found that by studying three macroscopic variables, temperature, pressure, and volume, (all of which are measurable!) that a kinetic molecular theory of gases could be developed. This was based on experiment and not on intuition. Using these experimental discoveries, chemists and physicists could develop a pretty shrewd picture of what molecules were, and how they behaved.

The idea of a kinetic molecular theory for gases, could be extended to materials that were less amenable to study; to condensed phases, solids and liquids. I urge you to read popular accounts of these discoveries. There should be many on the web.