Java Security Settings:
      This web page employs Java, which requires specific security settings for correct operation.
      If the applets on this page do not run correctly, consult the Virtual Chemistry Experiments FAQ
      or the Physlet Physics web site for establishing the correct security settings.

Phase Changes

Heating Curve


What happens to a solid substance when it is heated?

In the absence of reactions that change the molecular structure of a compound, two types of behavior are possible when a compound is heated: The compound can simply get hotter (that is, its temperature increases) or a phase change can occur.

The transition from the solid phase to the liquid phase is an example of a phase change, which is often called melting. Boiling or vaporization is an example of a phase change from the liquid to the gas phase.

This exercise explores the changes that occur to a substance during heating. At the outset of the experiment, a cylinder equipped with a movable barrier contains 0.200 mole of a pure solid. The barrier is exposed to the atmosphere and thus the material in the cylinder experiences a constant pressure at all times during the experiment.

The walls of the cylinder contain heating elements, the controls for which appears below the graph. When the button labeled "Heat" is pressed, current is passed through the heating elements and heat is released into the cylinder. Heat is only released when this button is selected. As soon as the button is released (that is, the mouse button is released), heating stops. Thus it is possible to repeatedly stop and restart the heating during an experiment.

The amount of current that passes through the heating elements determines the heating rate, the unit for which is the watt (1 W = 1 J/sec). The heating rate may be set to any positive value up to 1000.0 W.

Successive sets of experimental data are plotted on the graph, which may be reset using the "Reset Graph" button. This feature allows heating curves for different heating rates to be compared.

The phase of the substance may be identified by its color: the solid phase is blue, the liquid phase is red, and the gas phase is yellow.


To perform the experiment:

  1. Reset the experiment.
  2. Enter the heating rate for the experiment. For the first experiment, using 200 W.
  3. Click on the "Heat" button to transfer heat to the substance in the cylinder. Heat is only transferred while the button is activated.
  4. Carefully observe how the temperature varies with the heating time. (The T vs t plot is shown in the graph.)
  5. Repeat the experiment with a heating rate of 400 W.


  1. Why are there regions where the temperature does not change with time, despite the fact that heat is being added to the system?
  2. In most cases, the transfer of heat to an object increases its temperature. In the regions where the temperature does not change as heat is flowing into the substance, what change is the heat producing?
  3. What is the melting point of the substance?
  4. What is the boiling point of the substance?
  5. What is the molar heat of fusion of the substance? (Bear in mind that 0.200 mole of substance is present in the cylinder.)
  6. What is the molar heat of vaporization of the substance? (Bear in mind that 0.200 mole of substance is present in the cylinder.)
  7. How does the heating curve for a 400 W heating rate compare with that obtained using a 200 W heating rate? (Be quantitative in your answer.) Do the melting point and boiling point depend upon the heating rate? Do the molar heat of fusion and the molar heat of vaporization depend upon the heating rate?

Note: When the cursor is over the graph, pressing the left mouse button will display the position of the cursor. This information can be used to determine numerical values from the plot.

Be aware that this representation of the experiment is highly idealized. In particular it is assumed that the heat is instantaneously distributed in a uniform fashion throughout the system and that during a phase change the phase-change process is always at equilibrium. In practice one does not observe abrupt, sharp changes in slope for the temperature vs time plot, and overheating is common.

Heating Rate:     W          

Phase Changes Home Page
Virtual Chemistry Home Page

HeatingCurve.html version 2.1
© 2001-2014 David N. Blauch