Top 6 Exclusive Sublimation Examples in Daily Life

Sublimation is a type of phase transition in which a substance directly changes from solid-state to the gaseous state, bypassing the liquid state. In spite of the fact that this thermodynamical law has been known for centuries, we can still see sublimation examples in daily life.

Since the process of sublimation requires additional energy to bypass the liquid state of matter, as a result, it is an endothermic phase transition.

The opposite of sublimation is known as desublimation or deposition. In other words, when a substance or material directly changes from a gaseous state to the solid states, bypassing the liquid state, known as a deposition.


Top 6 Exclusive Sublimation Examples in Daily Life

If you think, you can’t relate to real-life examples of sublimation in everyday life. Well, here is your chance to think again…!!!

  1. Sublimation of dry ice
  2. Disappearance of naphthalene balls
  3. Sublimation in forensic sciences
  4. Even snow sublimates
  5. Dye-sublimation printers
  6. Sublimation in psychology


Sublimation of Dry Ice

Dry ice pellet, with sublimation from the surface. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The very first one in my list of top 6 exclusive sublimation examples in daily life is dry ice. Not to mention, dry ice is nothing but a solid form of carbon dioxide.

The process of sublimation takes place in dry ice at approximately -78 degrees celsius around normal atmospheric pressure.

In other words, solid carbon dioxide or dry ice sublimates from its solid state to its gaseous state at -78 degrees Celcius, providing atmospheric pressure equal to 1atm.

You can think of dry ice in its gaseous state as a cloud in the sky. I mean, both are equivalent. Moreover, there are so many uses of dry ice in our daily life.

The most common application of dry ice is as a cooling agent. Not to mention, even you could have seen it. You would have seen the ice cream cart in your locality. They use dry ice as a cooling agent just to serve you a chilled and frozen ice cream.

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The other famous use of dry ice is as a fog machine to create an artificial fog effect in theatres or in a night club.

On the other hand, if you are a fan of WWE, you would have obviously seen the dense fog effects while the entrance of some superstars. Well, who can forget the entrance of the undertaker?

Safety tip:

Carbon dioxide in its liquid or gaseous state is not hazardous. On the other hand, Carbon dioxide in its solid form i.e dry ice should be handled very carefully.

Therefore, in order to ensure that you don’t get frostbite, wear proper safety gear while handling solid carbon dioxide. Why? Because dry ice is too cold to be touched with bare hands.


Disappearance (Sublimation) of Naphthalene Balls

Credit: Joom

Well, maybe I should talk about examples of sublimation in chemistry too. That’s why the very next one on my list is the disappearance of naphthalene balls.

A naphthalene ball is nothing but a pack of benzene rings that disappears due to the process of sublimation.

These mothballs or naphthalene balls sublime easily due to the presence of non-polar molecules which are in turn held together by Van Der Waals intermolecular forces.

The Van Der Waal forces are the weakest intermolecular forces. Therefore, as a result, at a temperature of around 80 degrees celsius, these naphthalene balls sublime into vapors.

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The most common use of naphthalene balls is as a preservative for clothes to protect it from insects that eat it up. I still remember, as a kid, I used to think that my Mom is putting some kind of white balls between clothes.

I was like my mom has gone mad. But, now I understand what she was actually doing. She was just using naphthalene balls to repel insects from eating it up.

Just like the naphthalene balls, other examples of sublimation in chemistry can be seen in solid air fresheners, like the one which is hanging in your bathroom, or even in your car. All of them sublimate when they directly come in the contact with air.


Sublimation in Forensic Sciences

This is how an iodine fingerprint looks like. Credit: MEL Chemistry

The next one in my list of top 6 applications of Sublimation in daily life is in the field of Forensic sciences. Forensic science is an application of the scientific methodology to investigate criminal and legal problems. And, in that investigation, the process of sublimation plays a vital role.

Forensic scientists use fingerprints as one of the basic tools to gather evidence at the scene of a crime. And for taking fingerprints, mostly they use iodine crystal as a catalyst.

On gentle heating, iodine crystal sublimates or in other words produce fumes. When someone’s finger is pressed down onto the paper, oils present in the pore of the skin are transferred to the paper.

Therefore, when these oils react with the iodine fumes or vapors, produce the required traces of the latent fingerprints. If you don’t know, latent fingerprints are those which can not be seen through the naked eyes.

See also, Top 6 Boyle’s Law Applications in daily life

These latent fingerprints can also be obtained by some other catalysts like Arsenic, Zinc, or Cadmium. But, unfortunately, they are not. Why? Because they are quite volatile in nature as compared to the iodine crystals.

Not to mention, even iodine crystal sublimates too violently. That’s why not more than two iodine crystals are used to develop a quality fingerprint. Otherwise, the fingerprint will develop too dark.


Even Snow Sublimates

This is how snow sublimates at the hilltop of Mount Kailash. Credit: The Economic Times

Let’s talk about nature. That’s why the very next one on my list is the sublimation of snow. Well, even you could have seen it. But, unfortunately, you couldn’t recognize it.

Why? Because the process of sublimation of ice is too fast to be seen with naked eyes. Obviously, you could see the end result i.e snow is gone.

Under some special conditions, of course, snow or frozen ice can sublimates into water vapor, bypassing its liquid phase.

Must read, Charles Law of Thermodynamics – The Law of Constant Pressure

These so-called special conditions would be low temperature, very low air pressure, strong winds, intense sunlight. Not to mention, these conditions could only be met at the hilltop of the mountain.


Dye-sublimation Printers

A dye-sublimation A4 Printer. Credit: Amazon UK

The very next one in my list of top 6 applications of Sublimation is in the dye-sublimation printer. Dye-sub printing is a digital printing technology that utilizes the process of sublimation to print quality images especially on polyester or polymer-coated substrates.

In dye-sublimation printing, a special film containing a unique sublimation dye (in the form of solid pigments) is heated, sublimate, and are recaptured on the substrate. As they cool down, they turn back into solid, leaving a high-quality image on the substrate.

The dye-sublimation printers are commonly used for decorating banners, signs, apparel, or coffee mugs. Moreover, the print on your cell phone cover is because of the application of dye-sublimation printers.

Check out, Boyle’s Law of Thermodynamics – The Law of Constant Temperature

In contrast to normal printers such as inkjet printers, dye-sublimation printers are most commonly used.

Why? Because in dye printing, the dye turns from solid to gas, and, then back to solid again, bypassing the liquid phase. Hence, affordable and also not as messy as inkjet printers.


Sublimation in Psychology

Credit: Harvard Business Review

Last but not least one in my list of top 6 exclusive sublimation examples in daily life is in psychological warfare. Yup, you heard me right. I am definitely not lying. We human use the process of sublimation in our day to day life psychological defense mechanism.

In psychoanalytic theory, it is a defense mechanism that reduces anxiety which may result in some fruit full positive work.

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According to Sigmund Freud, sublimation works by channeling the negative and unacceptable impulses into something positive and socially constructive behaviors.

For example, you are scolded by your boss at work. As a result, you became anxious and distressed that you may lose your job. On the contrary, you decided to go for a walk, therefore, by doing that, you released your frustration.

This walking activity not only gives you time to cool off and reflect, moreover, it also benefits your mental as well as physical health.

Another example could be that you are an introvert with no friends, lifestyle, and therefore, becoming depressed and frustrated.

On the contrary, you channelize or sublimate this negative energy into doing something constructive with your life. Therefore, became a creative and successful businessman or even an entrepreneur.

Special Note:

I would like to make myself clear here regarding the example of sublimation in psychology. The definition of sublimation in psychology has nothing to do with this article. But, the process is almost the same.

Take a look at the Top 6 Most Common Examples of Condensation

In other words, maybe the definition is not the same as it should be. But, in the psychological defense mechanism, you simply blow off the steam, just like in actual sublimation examples.

I thought maybe I should include this one, simply to make you motivated toward the cause of life i.e to become a successful person, moreover, becoming a happy person.


Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is sublimation?

Ans. Sublimation is a type of phase transition in which a substance or material directly changes from solid-state to the gaseous state, bypassing the liquid state.

2. What does dry ice look like?

Ans. Dry ice is nothing but a solid form of carbon dioxide. It is almost colorless, non-flammable. But, it could cause you frostbite. Why? Because solid carbon dioxide or dry ice is too cold to be handled with bare hands.

3. What is the rate of sublimation of dry ice?

Ans. As per general guidelines, dry ice will sublimate at a rate of 1% per hour in a typical ice chest. This process of sublimation continues from the time of purchase.

Therefore, at the time of purchase, the customers are advised to pick up dry ice as close to the time needed as possible.

4. How to make dry ice?

Ans. Well, with the proper instrument and knowledge, of course, dry ice can be easily manufactured. At first, gases with a very high concentration of carbon dioxide are produced.

Then, the produced gas is pressurized and later refrigerated until it liquifies. Next, the pressure is reduced. When this occurs, some liquid carbon dioxide vaporizes, causing a rapid lowering of the temperature of the remaining liquid.

As a result, the extreme cold causes the liquid to solidify into a snow-like consistency i.e nothing but dry ice.

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I am a mechanical engineer by profession. Just because of my love for fundamental physics, I switched my carrier, and therefore I just completed my postgraduate degree in physics. Right now I am a loner (as like ever) and a Physics blogger too. My sole future goal is to do a Ph.D. in theoretical physics, especially in the field of cosmology. Because in my view, every part of physics comes within the range of cosmology. And I love traveling, especially the Sole one.

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