Introduction to Gases

Of the three common states of matter, the gaseous state was most easily described by early scientists. As early as 1662, Robert Boyle showed how the volume of a gas, any gas, changed as the pressure applied to it was changed. Soon thereafter, the effects of temperature and the quantity of gas on the volume were discovered. The result of all these studies was a set of fundamental mathematical equations known as the gas laws that applied equally well to any gas, whether pure oxygen, nitrogen, or a mixture of the two. Through careful studies of gases reacting with one another, Amedeo Avogadro later concluded that equal volumes of different gases must contain the same number of molecules. For example, 10.0 L of oxygen contained the same number of oxygen molecules as there were nitrogen molecules in 10.0 L of nitrogen.

As time passed, it became clear that one mole of any gas contained the same number of molecules, 6.02 × 10 23 molecules to be exact, a number known today as Avogadro's number. One mole of anything is Avogadro's number of that thing—atoms, molecules, people, or dollars—and that would be a lot of dollars!