Cracking the AP Chemistry Exam
Content Review for the AP Chemistry Exam
Big Idea #2: Bonding and Phases
Beyond helping to determine the melting point and boiling point of covalent substances, the relative strength of the intermolecular forces in a substance can also predict several other properties of that substance. The most important of these is vapor pressure. Vapor pressure arises from the fact that the molecules inside a liquid are in constant motion. If those molecules hit the surface of the liquid with enough kinetic energy, they can escape the intermolecular forces holding them to the other molecules and transition into the gas phase.
This process is called vaporization. It is not to be confused with a liquid boiling. When a liquid boils, energy (in the form of heat) is added, increasing the kinetic energy of all of the molecules in the liquid until all of the intermolecular forces are broken. For vaporization to occur, no outside energy needs to be added. Note that there is a direct relationship between temperature and vapor pressure. The higher the temperature of a liquid, the faster the molecules are moving and the more likely they are to break free of the other molecules. So, temperature and vapor pressure are directly proportional.
If two liquids are at the same temperature, the vapor pressure is dependent primarily on the strength of the intermolecular forces within that liquid. The stronger those intermolecular forces are, the less likely it is that molecules will be able to escape the liquid, and the lower the vapor pressure for that liquid will be.