Critical temperature

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Critical Temperature

The critical temperature of a substance is a key concept in thermodynamics and physical chemistry, denoting the highest temperature at which a gas can be converted to a liquid by applying pressure. Beyond this temperature, the distinction between the liquid and gas phases ceases to exist, and the substance exists in a state known as a supercritical fluid. The critical temperature varies significantly among different substances, reflecting the unique intermolecular forces at play within each.

Definition[edit | edit source]

The critical temperature (Tc) is defined as the temperature above which it is impossible to liquefy a gas, regardless of the pressure applied. This concept is closely related to the critical pressure (Pc), which is the minimum pressure required to liquefy a gas at its critical temperature, and the critical point, which is the combination of the critical temperature and critical pressure where the gas and liquid phases of a substance have the same density and are indistinguishable.

Physical Significance[edit | edit source]

At the critical temperature, the properties of the gas and liquid phases converge, leading to the formation of a single phase known as a supercritical fluid. Supercritical fluids exhibit unique properties that are intermediate between those of a gas and a liquid. For example, they can diffuse through solids like a gas and dissolve materials like a liquid. These properties make supercritical fluids extremely useful in various industrial and scientific applications, including supercritical fluid extraction and supercritical drying.

Determination[edit | edit source]

The critical temperature of a substance can be determined experimentally or estimated using various equations of state, such as the Van der Waals equation. These equations take into account the intermolecular forces and the volume occupied by the molecules to predict the conditions (temperature and pressure) under which a gas will liquefy.

Applications[edit | edit source]

Understanding and utilizing the critical temperature is crucial in many industrial processes. For instance, the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry relies on the ability to cool natural gas below its critical temperature to liquefy it for transportation and storage. Similarly, the critical temperature plays a vital role in the design and operation of equipment for chemical engineering processes, such as reactors and separation units.

See Also[edit | edit source]

Critical temperature Resources
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Contributors: Prab R. Tumpati, MD