Mara (11) asked a question about elements and why they exist in different states at room temperature.

Mara’s question was “Why is it that some elements are Gases or Solids at room temperature? I can understand why we would need them to be different, and my first guess would be that the density of the element is the answer, but I don’t know how that would work. So I wonder how is that some elements are different at room temperature, and why aren’t they all solids or all gases?”

Mara, many thanks for an interesting question. I asked my friends about this and your ideas.

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Some thoughts. I am thinking about the individual ‘atoms’ that make up the structure of an element. For Hydrogen you have two atoms joined by a bond, and the attraction between each Hydrogen molecule (the name given to bonded hydrogen structure) is very small. For the element Carbon you have a complex structure of bonding atoms each carbon atom being bonded to four other carbon atoms (it has one of the highest melting points). For the metals you have a fairly loose bond between the atoms BUT some of the atoms are very ‘heavy’ and as melting any element means giving it energy and making the atoms move apart … the more energy you have to supply… the higher the melting point. (see my little story on a previous post).

So like you suggested in your question it is a complex situation, with lots of different factors affecting the temperature at which an element melts and maybe density is part of that…. (revised 24/07/16). You can ‘Leave a Reply’ or ask another question if you want further thoughts.

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