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The word gas applies to one of three different states of matter, solids and liquids being the other two, that has no shape of it's own and since it has very low density, it expands indefinitely if not contained. Once it is contained, gas takes on the shape of it's container.

Gas can be changed into solid forms by cooling or compression and solid materials can take on gaseous forms, called vapor or steam, when heated at high temperatures.

There are two distinct categories of gases.

  • The first, made up of one kind of chemical element is called elementary gas. There are twelve such gases that form at ordinary pressures or temperatures. They are neon, helium, nitrogen, oxygen, xenon, radon, nitrogen, ozone, fluorine, krypton, hydrogen and chlorine.
  • The other classification are gases that are made up of the atoms of more than one element, called compound gases, such as carbon monoxide and ammonia.

Gases form with a wide variety of physical and chemical characteristics. Some have no color or odor while others have very distinct odors and colors. When in the presence of oxygen, some will burn freely while others will not.

Although gases have specific variations, they all have certain properties in common, such as molecular arrangements, pressure and diffusion qualities, and the ability to expand or compress. Gases can also become liquefied by heating, each having it's own critical temperature for liquefaction.

Gases have many beneficial uses in our lives, ranging from the air we breathe to the heating and cooling of our homes to medical and dental applications to growing and processing foods to fueling our cars and buses and other modes of transportation.

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