Phase Change
Properties of Matter

Change of volume: petrol to petrol vapour

Practical Activity for 14-16 PRACTICAL PHYISCS


This experiment works more easily than that with water and is less expensive.

Apparatus and Materials

  • Change of volume kit (as shown in the diagram) with long needle (8 to 10 cm)
  • Beaker, 400 ml
  • Wire stirrer to fit inside the tall beaker and go round the measuring cylinder
  • Plastic tube to carry over to beaker
  • Plastic tube to extend to the bottom of the measuring cylinder
  • Petroleum ether, 40 – 60 boiling fraction

Health & Safety and Technical Notes

Ordinary petrol must not be used as it contains benzene (carcinogenic) proportions. Petroleum ether can be regarded as pure petrol.

The security of the syringe with the long needle is an issue to be watched.

Read our standard health & safety guidance

The change of volume kit should include:

  • 100ml measuring jar
  • Rubber stopper with two tubes inserted
  • Rubber cap
  • Hypodermic syringe and needle
  • Syringe and needle

If the measuring cylinder has a pouring lip, the rubber stopper, with its two glass tubes, must extend below the lip to prevent leakage there.


  1. Place the measuring cylinder (without its stopper) in the tall beaker.
  2. Put about 200 ml of water into the small beaker.
  3. Fill the tall beaker and the measuring cylinder with boiling water from an electric kettle.
  4. Close the cylinder with its bung and ensure the outlet plastic tube is in the water in the small beaker.
  5. Push the needle through the cap on the short tube in the bung and inject 0.1 ml of petroleum ether. As the petroleum ether turns to vapour, the displaced hot water runs over into the small beaker.

Teaching Notes

  • To reverse the change, take the measuring cylinder out of the large beaker, ensuring the end of the plastic tube stays under the water in the small beaker. You have to wait for the temperature to fall to about 60°C.
  • The expected volume change is 1 to 800.

This experiment was safety-tested in August 2006

Phase Change
can be analysed using the quantity Energy
Limit Less Campaign

Support our manifesto for change

The IOP wants to support young people to fulfil their potential by doing physics. Please sign the manifesto today so that we can show our politicians there is widespread support for improving equity and inclusion across the education sector.

Sign today