15 Examples of Physical Change

Crushing a Can, melting ice, cutting paper, Grinding Coffee Beans, Cutting Fruit, Bending a Wire, Hammering a Nail, and chopping wood are some common examples of physical change.

Examples of Physical Change

Here are the 15 examples of physical changes:

1: Crushing a Can

Crushing an empty aluminum soda can is an example of a physical change. The can starts as a cylindrical prism shape. When crushed, the can changes shape and becomes more flattened and compacted. However, the composition of the crushed can is still aluminum metal. It remains the same elemental aluminum atoms, just rearranged into a different physical shape.

Have students observe that even though the shape changed, the can is still made of aluminum metal.

2: Cutting Paper

Cutting a piece of paper in half with scissors is a physical change. The original sheet of paper is now two separate smaller pieces, but they are still paper. The composition and material properties remain unchanged. Cutting just separates the paper into smaller portions. The cellulose fibers that make up the paper are the same before and after cutting.

image showing Cutting Paper as an example of PHYSICAL CHANGE

3: Grinding Coffee Beans

Grinding whole coffee beans into a fine powder is a physical change. Whole beans have a large granular size and hard texture. When ground, the beans become a fine powder with a smooth, soft texture. The composition remains coffee bean particles, just much smaller. Grinding only changes the physical characteristics, not the coffee’s chemical identity.

image showing Grinding Coffee Beans as an example of PHYSICAL CHANGE

4: Melting Ice

Melting ice into liquid water is a physical change because it is only a change in physical state, not composition. The water molecules remain H20 but move freely when ice melts. If the water is refrozen, it returns to the solid ice state. Melting and freezing change the rigid structure of ice but not its chemical identity.

image showing Melting Ice as an example of PHYSICAL CHANGE

5: Cutting Fruit

Chopping an apple into slices is an example of a physical change. The apple started as an intact fruit. When sliced, there are multiple smaller apple pieces. However, the composition and taste is still the same sweet, juicy apple. Cutting only separated the fruit into smaller portions without changing its chemistry.

image showing Cutting Fruit as an example of PHYSICAL CHANGE

6: Bending a Wire

Bending a wire, such as a paper clip or coat hanger, is a physical change. The wire starts straight, then can be bent into different shapes like curves, spirals or angles. The same wire can be bent back into its original straight shape since only physical bonds were effected. Its composition remains iron metal.

image showing Bending a Wire as an example of PHYSICAL CHANGE

7: Boiling Water

Boiling liquid water into water vapor is a physical change. Although its physical state changes from liquid to gas, the vapor is still H2O water molecules. If the gas is cooled, it will condense back into liquid water. Water remains the same chemistry regardless of its state of matter.

8: Dissolving Salt

When salt crystals dissolve into water, they are not chemically altered. The salt forms a mixture with the water, dispersing its ions throughout, but the ions remain sodium chloride. Evaporating the water allows the salt to be recovered in its original form, showing this is a physical change.

image showing Dissolving Salt as an example of PHYSICAL CHANGE

9: Hammering a Nail

Hammering an iron nail into a board is a physical change. The nail starts long and thin. Hammering makes it shorter and flatter against the wood surface. However, the nail remains iron metal throughout. Only its shape changes, not its elemental composition.

10: Chopping Wood

Chopping firewood splits logs into smaller pieces but does not change their material. Logs are composed of wood cellulose fibers. When chopped, the fibers are separated but remain wood. Chopped firewood can be reformed such as restacking split logs.

image showing Chopping Wood as an example of PHYSICAL CHANGE

11: Rolling Play-Doh

Rolling Play-Doh out flat using a rolling pin is an example of a physical change. The Play-Doh starts as a ball or lump. When rolled, it flattens and takes on a thin, pancake shape. However, its composition remains a pliable putty material throughout.

image showing Rolling Play-Doh as an example of PHYSICAL CHANGE

12: Crushing Chalk

Crushing a piece of sidewalk chalk into a fine powder is a physical change. The chalk starts as a large solid stick. When crushed, it breaks into many tiny pieces in powder form. However, the composition remains calcium carbonate before and after crushing.

Experiment: Use a mortar and pestle to crush a large piece of chalk into a fine powder. Observe that only the size and shape changed, not the makeup of calcium carbonate.

13: Stretching a Spring

Stretching or compressing a coil spring is a physical change. The spring starts in a resting position, then can be stretched or squeezed shorter. When released, it returns to its original shape and size. Only temporary physical distortions occurred from the force applied.

image showing Stretching a Spring as an example of PHYSICAL CHANGE

14: Folding Paper

Folding a sheet of paper into an airplane shape is a physical change. The paper starts flat, then can be reformed into a new shape by folding. Unfolding it returns the paper to its original shape, proving its composition was unaffected.

15: Chewing Gum

Chewing gum is an example of a physical change. The gum starts in a solid, rubbery state. As you chew, it softens and takes on a stringy texture but remains a pliable plastic polymer material. It can be reshaped back to its original form.

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