ELI5: Explain Like I'm 5

Phase transition

Imagine you have a big bowl of water with ice cubes inside. When you first put the ice cubes into the water, they are very cold and hard. But, as the ice sits in the water for a little while, it slowly starts to melt and turn into liquid water. This is an example of a phase transition!

A phase transition happens when matter (like water, for example) changes from one phase, or state, to another. There are a few different types of phase transitions, but we'll focus on the two most common: melting and boiling.

Melting is when a solid turns into a liquid. This happens when you add heat to the solid (like when you put a cube of ice on a hot sidewalk or in a glass of water that is warmer than freezing). The added heat gives energy to the solid molecules, which causes them to move around more and more - eventually, they move enough to break apart from their fixed, solid positions and become more fluid and mobile, forming a liquid.

Boiling is when a liquid turns into a gas. This happens when you add heat to the liquid (like when you boil water on the stove). Just like with melting, the added heat gives energy to the liquid molecules, causing them to move around more and more - but this time, they move so much that they break free of the forces that hold them together as a liquid and escape as a gas.

Both melting and boiling are examples of phase transitions, where matter changes from one state to another in response to changes in temperature or pressure. Understanding phase transitions is important for many different fields, including materials science, chemistry, and even cooking!