Specific properties of matter: what they are and examples

All substances, objects, materials, bodies, etc., have mass and volume , which are general properties of matter. By themselves they do not describe any particular characteristics, since two extremely different objects, such as a block of lead and a pillow of feathers, have mass and volume, even if they are not the same.

But when we consider specific properties like color and density , then the lead block and the feather pillow become totally irreconcilable: little by nothing they share in common.

As we take into account a greater number of specific properties, we will have a better description of the characteristics of any substance. Not only that, but we can even study all kinds of mixtures and composite objects, such as a plate of chocolates, a table full of food, a factory, a building, a beetle, etc.


Density is the relationship that exists between the mass and the volume of a body, that is, it relates two of its general properties to obtain a specific property. Density gives us an idea of ​​how tightly packed the atoms or molecules of a substance are.

For example, gases are less dense than water. Consequently, when there is a source of gases under water, they rise like a tower of bubbles, since the less dense substances always position themselves above the denser ones. Why? Because they are heavier and their volumes are smaller, smaller.

Density is key to differentiate hundreds of gases, liquids and solids from each other, regardless of their visible characteristics.


The elasticity of rubber bands is recognizable from childhood

Elasticity is a specific property that is characterized by the reversible deformation of a body when subjected to a stretching force. Rubber, for example, is elastic, since we can deform it in any direction and it will regain its original shape. On the other hand, a vase is not: as much as we want to stretch it, it will only break irreversibly.

Chewing gum, on the other hand, shows some elasticity. However, when we stretch it too much it completely loses its initial shape, so it will be necessary to reshape it with your teeth or hands. Similar is the case of some plastics.


Shine is one of the first specific properties that tends to arouse our curiosity the most.

Gloss is the specific property that some substances, objects or surfaces have to reflect visible light with remarkable luminosity. We also associate brightness with those objects that resemble mirrors. For example, a well-polished tile floor becomes shiny from cleaning. Similarly, the same thing happens with a wooden floor.


Hardness is the property that some bodies have of showing resistance to being scratched by another surface due to strong friction.

Consider, for example, a blackboard. Many times we believe that it is we, with our chalk or markers, who scratch the surface of the blackboard; when in reality it is the blackboard that does all the work. When rubbing the chalks or markers, its particles are printed on the surface of the blackboard in the direction we want.

If we really wanted to scratch the board, it would take an even harder object. And then, we would see some cracks or scratches that no matter how hard we tried we could not erase, even with water or any other solvent. This is what happens in the stems of trees that have messages engraved with knives or chisels.


Honey, like mustard and ketchup, are examples of viscous or thick liquids

Viscosity is the resistance that a fluid exhibits during its movement. Thus, we see that tomato sauce, for example, is more viscous than water, since as soon as we turn a bottle of water it will run freely to wet the floor; while ketchup will take time to peek around the edges of the bottle’s spout.

Viscosity is one of the most important specific properties when evaluating the quality of a product. In other words, a tomato sauce will be of doubtful quality if it is suddenly more liquid than usual; or if on the contrary, it appears much thicker than normal.

Melting point

Melted chocolate is one of the most striking examples of fusion in confectionery

Melting point is the temperature at which a solid substance begins to melt or melt. It is then said that it passes into the liquid state , no matter how dense or viscous the latter is. This temperature is unique, or almost unique, for all solids, so it helps to differentiate them; and even more important, to separate them.

Ice, for example, begins to melt above 0 ° C. On the other hand, a few sugar cubes or a chocolate bar need higher temperatures. When sugar melts, it begins to comeralize, a process widely used in making cakes and sweets.

Boiling point

When a liquid boils it is said to have reached its boiling point

The boiling point is the temperature at which a liquid substance begins to boil, because its vapor pressure equals atmospheric pressure. During the boiling point we see the formation of many bubbles that burst on the surface of the liquid. Like melting point, this is quite a useful property for characterizing or differentiating liquids from each other.

For example, acetone boils at 56ºC, while water boils at a temperature close to 100ºC. Acetone, in addition to removing enamel, also helps to dry glass materials, since it interacts with water and carries it with it as it evaporates quickly.


The bodies have associated a temperature, which reflects their degree of heat or thermal energy. It is a specific property that does not depend at all on the mass or volume of the substances.

For example, thanks to the temperature we can differentiate a sugar crystal from an ice crystal. However, temperature is more useful when it comes to describing mixtures or systems (regions, spaces, etc.).


Color is a phenomenon of visual perception that makes it possible to differentiate identical objects. Color is produced on the retina from light rays reflected by objects.


The taste is perceived from the taste buds found on the tongue. Each food and material has a different flavor.


It is the property that some materials have to deform from a compression force, but without breaking. From the malleability, sheets of material can be obtained, such as gold sheets.


Ductility is the property of some materials to deform from a force. Unlike the malleability, with the ductility threads of the material are obtained.

Electric conductivity

It is the property that certain materials have to conduct electrical energy.

Metals like gold, silver, iron, or copper are good conductors. However, materials such as glass, quartz or paraffin are insulating, that is, they do not conduct electricity.


It is the property that some substances have to dissolve in solvents.

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