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Photograph of the lunar rover on the Moon. The photo looks like it was taken at night with a powerful spotlight shining on the rover from the left: light reflects off the rover, the astronaut, and the Moon’s surface, but the sky is black. The shadow of the rover is very sharp.
This photograph of Apollo 17 Commander Eugene Cernan driving the lunar rover on the Moon in 1972 looks as though it was taken at night with a large spotlight. In fact, the light is coming from the Sun. Because the acceleration due to gravity on the Moon is so low (about 1/6 that of Earth), the Moon’s escape velocity is much smaller. As a result, gas molecules escape very easily from the Moon, leaving it with virtually no atmosphere. Even during the daytime, the sky is black because there is no gas to scatter sunlight. (credit: Harrison H. Schmitt/NASA)

If you consider a very small object such as a grain of pollen, in a gas, then the number of atoms and molecules striking its surface would also be relatively small. Would the grain of pollen experience any fluctuations in pressure due to statistical fluctuations in the number of gas atoms and molecules striking it in a given amount of time?

Yes. Such fluctuations actually occur for a body of any size in a gas, but since the numbers of atoms and molecules are immense for macroscopic bodies, the fluctuations are a tiny percentage of the number of collisions, and the averages spoken of in this section vary imperceptibly. Roughly speaking the fluctuations are proportional to the inverse square root of the number of collisions, so for small bodies they can become significant. This was actually observed in the 19th century for pollen grains in water, and is known as the Brownian effect.

Phet explorations: gas properties

Pump gas molecules into a box and see what happens as you change the volume, add or remove heat, change gravity, and more. Measure the temperature and pressure, and discover how the properties of the gas vary in relation to each other.

Gas Properties

Section summary

  • Kinetic theory is the atomistic description of gases as well as liquids and solids.
  • Kinetic theory models the properties of matter in terms of continuous random motion of atoms and molecules.
  • The ideal gas law can also be expressed as
    PV = 1 3 Nm v 2 ¯ , size 12{ ital "PV"= { {1} over {3} } ital "Nm" {overline {v rSup { size 8{2} } }} ,} {}
    where P size 12{P} {} is the pressure (average force per unit area), V size 12{V} {} is the volume of gas in the container, N size 12{N} {} is the number of molecules in the container, m size 12{m} {} is the mass of a molecule, and v 2 ¯ size 12{ {overline {v rSup { size 8{2} } }} } {} is the average of the molecular speed squared.
  • Thermal energy is defined to be the average translational kinetic energy KE ¯ size 12{ {overline {"KE"}} } {} of an atom or molecule.
  • The temperature of gases is proportional to the average translational kinetic energy of atoms and molecules.
    KE ¯ = 1 2 m v 2 ¯ = 3 2 kT size 12{ {overline {"KE"}} = { {1} over {2} } m {overline {v rSup { size 8{2} } }} = { {3} over {2} } ital "kT"} {}


    v 2 ¯ = v rms = 3 kT m . size 12{ sqrt { {overline {v rSup { size 8{2} } }} } =v rSub { size 8{"rms"} } = sqrt { { {3 ital "kT"} over {m} } } "." } {}
  • The motion of individual molecules in a gas is random in magnitude and direction. However, a gas of many molecules has a predictable distribution of molecular speeds, known as the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution .

Conceptual questions

How is momentum related to the pressure exerted by a gas? Explain on the atomic and molecular level, considering the behavior of atoms and molecules.


Some incandescent light bulbs are filled with argon gas. What is v rms size 12{v rSub { size 8{"rms"} } } {} for argon atoms near the filament, assuming their temperature is 2500 K?

1 . 25 × 10 3 m/s size 12{ size 11{1 "." "25" times "10" rSup { size 8{3} } `"m/s"}} {}

Average atomic and molecular speeds ( v rms ) size 12{ \( v rSub { size 8{"rms"} } \) } {} are large, even at low temperatures. What is v rms size 12{v rSub { size 8{"rms"} } } {} for helium atoms at 5.00 K, just one degree above helium’s liquefaction temperature?

(a) What is the average kinetic energy in joules of hydrogen atoms on the 5500 º C size 12{"5500"°C} {} surface of the Sun? (b) What is the average kinetic energy of helium atoms in a region of the solar corona where the temperature is 6 . 00 × 10 5 K size 12{6 "." "00"´"10" rSup { size 8{5} } " K"} {} ?

(a) 1 . 20 × 10 19 J size 12{ size 11{1 "." "20" times "10" rSup { size 8{ - "19"} } `J}} {}

(b) 1 . 24 × 10 17 J size 12{ size 11{1 "." "24" times "10" rSup { size 8{ - "17"} } `J}} {}

The escape velocity of any object from Earth is 11.2 km/s. (a) Express this speed in m/s and km/h. (b) At what temperature would oxygen molecules (molecular mass is equal to 32.0 g/mol) have an average velocity v rms size 12{v rSub { size 8{"rms"} } } {} equal to Earth’s escape velocity of 11.1 km/s?

The escape velocity from the Moon is much smaller than from Earth and is only 2.38 km/s. At what temperature would hydrogen molecules (molecular mass is equal to 2.016 g/mol) have an average velocity v rms size 12{v rSub { size 8{"rms"} } } {} equal to the Moon’s escape velocity?

458 K size 12{ size 11{"458"`K}} {}

Nuclear fusion, the energy source of the Sun, hydrogen bombs, and fusion reactors, occurs much more readily when the average kinetic energy of the atoms is high—that is, at high temperatures. Suppose you want the atoms in your fusion experiment to have average kinetic energies of 6 . 40 × 10 14 J size 12{6 "." "40"´"10" rSup { size 8{ +- "14"} } " J"} {} . What temperature is needed?

Suppose that the average velocity ( v rms ) size 12{ \( v rSub { size 8{"rms"} } \) } {} of carbon dioxide molecules (molecular mass is equal to 44.0 g/mol) in a flame is found to be 1 . 05 × 10 5 m/s size 12{1 "." "05"´"10" rSup { size 8{5} } " m/s"} {} . What temperature does this represent?

1 . 95 × 10 7 K size 12{ size 11{1 "." "95" times "10" rSup { size 8{7} } `K}} {}

Hydrogen molecules (molecular mass is equal to 2.016 g/mol) have an average velocity v rms size 12{v rSub { size 8{"rms"} } } {} equal to 193 m/s. What is the temperature?

Much of the gas near the Sun is atomic hydrogen. Its temperature would have to be 1 . 5 × 10 7 K size 12{1 "." 5´"10" rSup { size 8{7} } " K"} {} for the average velocity v rms size 12{v rSub { size 8{"rms"} } } {} to equal the escape velocity from the Sun. What is that velocity?

6 . 09 × 10 5 m/s size 12{ size 11{6 "." "09" times "10" rSup { size 8{5} } `"m/s"}} {}

There are two important isotopes of uranium— 235 U size 12{ {} rSup { size 8{"235"} } U} {} and 238 U size 12{ {} rSup { size 8{"238"} } U} {} ; these isotopes are nearly identical chemically but have different atomic masses. Only 235 U size 12{ {} rSup { size 8{"235"} } U} {} is very useful in nuclear reactors. One of the techniques for separating them (gas diffusion) is based on the different average velocities v rms size 12{v rSub { size 8{"rms"} } } {} of uranium hexafluoride gas, UF 6 size 12{"UF" rSub { size 8{6} } } {} . (a) The molecular masses for 235 U size 12{ {} rSup { size 8{"235"} } U} {} UF 6 size 12{"UF" rSub { size 8{6} } } {} and 238 U size 12{ {} rSup { size 8{"238"} } U} {} UF 6 size 12{"UF" rSub { size 8{6} } } {} are 349.0 g/mol and 352.0 g/mol, respectively. What is the ratio of their average velocities? (b) At what temperature would their average velocities differ by 1.00 m/s? (c) Do your answers in this problem imply that this technique may be difficult?

Questions & Answers

Application of nanotechnology in medicine
what is variations in raman spectra for nanomaterials
Jyoti Reply
I only see partial conversation and what's the question here!
Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think one can use nanoparticles, specially silver nanoparticles for water treatment.
yes that's correct
I think
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
how nano science is used for hydrophobicity
Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
analytical skills graphene is prepared to kill any type viruses .
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
Privacy Information Security Software Version 1.1a
How we can toraidal magnetic field
Aditya Reply
How we can create polaidal magnetic field
Mykayuh Reply
Because I'm writing a report and I would like to be really precise for the references
Gre Reply
where did you find the research and the first image (ECG and Blood pressure synchronized)? Thank you!!
Gre Reply
Practice Key Terms 1

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Source:  OpenStax, Physics 101. OpenStax CNX. Jan 07, 2013 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11479/1.1
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