The Triple Point Is When a Liquid Can Boil and Freeze at Once

When water is a solid, it’s ice. When it’s a gas, it’s steam. When it’s a liquid, it’s, well, water. What if we told you that a substance can be all three of those states of matter at once? Yup. This freaky intersection is called the triple point.

Related: The Mind-Bending Properties Of Superfluid Helium

Every substance has a particular state at particular temperature and pressure. State of matter differs with temperature and pressure. There is a point at some temp. and pressure when there is an equilibrium in the solid, liquid and gaseous state of the substance. This point is called triple point in thermodynamics.

Triple point is a point (pressure and temperature) at which states of matter (Solid ,Liquid and Gas) coexists. Here is the figure which shows triple point of water.

Consider an initial pressure of some magnitude of ice , as a result of heat transfer the temperature will increase until 32 degree Fahrenheit .However further heat transfer may occur as some of the ice becoming vapor and some of them liquid because it is possible to have three states of matter in Equilibrium.
Betcha Didn’t Know This Was Possible

The triple point is a truly mind-mangling concept. A substance at the triple point is simultaneously a liquid, solid, and gas. How does this happen? It’s all about temperature and pressure. The triple point can be described as the temperature and pressure that puts the three aforementioned states of matter into thermodynamic equilibrium—that is, a condition where no one state of matter is trying to change into any other state. The boiling liquid causes high-energy molecules to rise as a gas, which in turn lowers the temperature of the boiling liquid and makes it freeze. That cycle continues as long as the substance stays at that triple-point temperature and pressure. For water, that triple point is at 32.02°F (0.01°C) and .006 atm. For reference, the Earth’s average atmospheric pressure is 1 atm.

Related: Is Glass A Liquid?
It’s Freaky, And Useful

Seeing a substance flirt with the triple point is a little mind-blowing, and would be a really cool party trick. (Oh, you don’t go to parties with vacuum chambers?) But the triple point is more than just a freaky science experiment. According to the National Physics Laboratory, “triple points make ideal reference points for the calibration of thermometers.” Additionally, as reported by the NPL, “Ethylene carbonate has a triple point temperature of 36.315°C which, being close to body temperature, makes it a highly useful reference point for the calibration of clinical thermometers, while benzoic acid has a triple point temperature of 122.33°C, close to the sterilising temperature of medical drip solutions.”

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Editor’s Picks: Our Favorite Videos About Weird States Of Matter
Cyclohexane Near The Triple Point

Here, you can watch the substance cyclohexane dancing around the triple point. If it were at the true triple point, it would exhibit properties from the different states all at once.

Science! – Cyclohexane at the Triple Point

– Tenstone

2 thoughts on “The Triple Point Is When a Liquid Can Boil and Freeze at Once

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