Physical change is happening all around. Use these examples of physical changes to see how the look, feel, or display of different things changes daily.
Matter makes up everything we can see in the universe. Since matter is not ever created or destroyed, it changes form to cycle through the world. In science, physical changes of matter are when the look, feel, or smell of it changes, but the chemical properties do not.
During a physical change, one or more physical properties, or characteristics, of the matter change. Physical properties include:
Unlike many physical changes, many chemical changes are not visible. Chemical changes happen on a molecular level and alter the actual makeup of the matter. In order for a change to be only a physical change, by definition it can’t change chemical properties.
You may not realize that you see examples of physical change every day. Think about how you might change the look or feel of different items without altering their chemical makeup.
The physical changes of water are easy to see at home, at work, or even in nature.
- An ice cube melting into water in your drink
- Freezing water to make ice cubes
- Boiling water evaporating
- Hot shower water turning to steam
- Steam from the shower condensing on a mirror
Your kitchen is one of the most common places you probably see physical changes happen on a regular basis.
- Crushing an empty milk carton
- Boiling pasta to make it soft
- Dissolving sugar in your coffee
- Shaking up a bottle of Italian dressing
- Freeze-drying fruits
- Thawing raw meat
- Chopping a vegetable into pieces
- Melting candy
- Dissolving a drink mix into water
- Adding milk to cereal
- Sharpening a knife
- Freezing juice into popsicles
- Adding food dye to white icing
- Coloring Easter eggs
- Mixing fruits in a fruit salad
- Letting gelatin set in the fridge
Natural elements like the sun and precipitation can alter the physical properties of natural and manmade objects. You might even cause some outdoor physical changes yourself.
- A plastic chair’s color fading
- Sanding wood
- Mixing dirt and water to make mud
- Icicles forming on the edge of your roof
- Mowing the lawn
- Bending wire
- Tying a rope in a knot
- Trimming a bush
- Evaporating puddles
From crafts and cleaning to personal appearance, these physical changes are fairly common.
- Deconstructing a box after a delivery
- Cutting an old credit card into pieces
- Cutting your hair
- Sharpening a pencil
- Crocheting yarn into a blanket
- Melting crayons
- Shredding paper
- Cutting an old t-shirt
- Dyeing your hair
- Trimming your dog's nails
- Polishing silver
- Folding a paper to fit in an envelope
- Origami animals
Irreversible changes are changes that you cannot undo to put the item back in its original state.
- Breaking a glass
- Chalk getting smaller after use
- Chopping wood
- Cracking an egg
- Mixing paint colors
- Rock erosion
- Slicing bread
Small physical changes are happening all the time, all around you. Sometimes you cause the changes, and sometimes they are part of natural processes. What physical changes have you seen today?