South Baltic Gas Forum
5 - 9 September 2011, Gdańsk, Poland


Gas is one of the four fundamental states of matter (the others being solid, liquid, and plasma). A pure gas may be made up of individual atoms (e.g. a noble gas like neon), elemental molecules made from one type of atom (e.g. oxygen), or compound molecules made from a variety of atoms (e.g. carbon dioxide). A gas mixture would contain a variety of pure gases much like the air. What distinguishes a gas from liquids and solids is the vast separation of the individual gas particles. This separation usually makes a colorless gas invisible to the human observer. The interaction of gas particles in the presence of electric and gravitational fields are considered negligible, as indicated by the constant velocity vectors in the image.
Gas particles are widely separated from one another, and consequently, have weaker intermolecular bonds than liquids or solids. These intermolecular forces result from electrostatic interactions between gas particles. Like-charged areas of different gas particles repel, while oppositely charged regions of different gas particles attract one another; gases that contain permanently charged ions are known as plasmas. Gaseous compounds with polar covalent bonds contain permanent charge imbalances and so experience relatively strong intermolecular forces, although the molecule while the compound's net charge remains neutral. Transient, randomly induced charges exist across non-polar covalent bonds of molecules and electrostatic interactions caused by them are referred to as Van der Waals forces. The interaction of these intermolecular forces varies within a substance which determines many of the physical properties unique to each gas. A comparison of boiling points for compounds formed by ionic and covalent bonds leads us to this conclusion. The drifting smoke particles in the image provides some insight into low-pressure gas behavior.
When describing a container of gas, the term pressure (or absolute pressure) refers to the average force per unit area that the gas exerts on the surface of the container. Within this volume, it is sometimes easier to visualize the gas particles moving in straight lines until they collide with the container (see diagram at top of the article). The force imparted by a gas particle into the container during this collision is the change in momentum of the particle. During a collision only the normal component of velocity changes. A particle traveling parallel to the wall does not change its momentum. Therefore, the average force on a surface must be the average change in linear momentum from all of these gas particle collisions.
If one could observe a gas under a powerful microscope, one would see a collection of particles (molecules, atoms, ions, electrons, etc.) without any definite shape or volume that are in more or less random motion. These neutral gas particles only change direction when they collide with another particle or with the sides of the container. In an ideal gas, these collisions are perfectly elastic. This particle or microscopic view of a gas is described by the Kinetic-molecular theory. The assumptions behind this theory can be found in the postulates section of Kinetic Theory.

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