Boiling point

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The boiling point of a substance is the temperature at which it can change state from a liquid to a gas throughout the bulk of the liquid. A liquid may change to a gas at temperatures below the boiling point through the process of Evaporation. However, evaporation is a surface phenomenon, so only molecules located near the gas/liquid surface may evaporate. Boiling on the other hand is a bulk process, so at the boiling point molecules anywhere in the liquid may be vaporized, resulting in the formation of vapor bubbles.

The boiling point corresponds to the temperature at which the vapor pressure of the substance equals the ambient pressure. Thus the boiling point is dependent on the pressure. Usually, boiling points are published with respect to the average atmospheric pressure at sea level (1 atm). At higher elevations, where the atmospheric pressure is much lower the boiling point is also lower. The boiling point increases with increased ambient pressure up to the critical point, where the gas and liquid properties become identical. The boiling point cannot be increased beyond the critical point. Likewise, the boiling point decreases with decreasing ambient pressure until the triple point is reached. The boiling point cannot be reduced below the triple point.

The process of changing from a liquid to a gas requires an amount of heat called the latent heat of vaporization. As heat is added to a liquid at its boiling point, all of this heat goes toward the phase change from liquid to gas, thus the temperature of the substance remains constant. Since heat is added with no corresponding change in temperature, the heat capacity of the liquid is essentially infinite at the boiling point.

In terms of intermolecular interactions, the boiling point represents the point at which the liquid molecules posess enough heat energy to overcome the various intermolecular attractions binding the molecules into the liquid (eg. dipole-dipole attraction, instantaneous-dipole induced-dipole attractions, and hydrogen bonds). Therefore the boiling point is also an indicator of the strength of these attractive forces.