12 Mind-Blowing Sublimation Examples in Everyday Life

Sublimation is the process by which a substance changes from a solid to a gas without passing through the intermediate liquid phase. This transition occurs when the substance’s vapor pressure exceeds the pressure of the surrounding atmosphere, causing the substance to transition directly from the solid to the gaseous state.

12 Examples of Sublimation in Real Life

Now let us take a look at the 12 examples of sublimation in real life.

Dry Ice

dry ice
dry ice

Dry ice which is a solid carbon dioxide (CO2) can undergo sublimation at temperatures above -109.3°F (-78.5°C) and at atmospheric pressure. The gas released during the sublimation of dry ice is also carbon dioxide.

How fast dry ice sublimates depends on a few things, like temperature, pressure, and how much of the dry ice is exposed. When it’s warmer, dry ice sublimates more quickly. And the less pressure there is, the faster it sublimates. Plus, the more surface area of dry ice that’s exposed, the quicker it’ll sublimate.

Dry ice is widely used in various industries such as food storage and transportation, refrigeration and even entertainment (like creating spooky smoke effects). It’s also commonly used in scientific experiments and demonstrations because of its unique properties. When dry ice undergoes sublimation, it produces clouds of white gas (CO2), which can create stunning visual effects.

Water Cycle

water cycle
water cycle

In the water cycle, sublimation refers to the process by which water transitions from a solid state (ice or snow) directly into a gaseous state (water vapor) without first becoming a liquid. This typically occurs when the temperature is low and the air is dry, such as in high-altitude regions or extremely cold temperatures.

Sublimation plays an important role in the water cycle because it helps to transport water vapor from the surface to the upper atmosphere, where it can eventually be cooled and condensed back into a liquid or solid state. This process helps to balance the distribution of water on Earth and helps to regulate the Earth’s climate.

Polar Evaporation

polar evaporation
polar evaporation

In polar evaporation, sublimation occurs when ice or snow is exposed to temperatures below its freezing point, causing it to turn directly into water vapor. This process is common in cold, arid regions such as the polar regions, where the air is dry and the temperature is often well below freezing.



In the case of mothballs, the active ingredient is typically naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, both of which are solid at room temperature. When the mothballs are placed in a closed space, such as a closet or storage container, these substances begin to sublimate, or evaporate, into the air. The strong, pungent odor of the sublimated chemicals is what repels moths and other insects.

Mothballs are often used to protect clothing and other textile items from being damaged by moths and other insects. The sublimation process releases the chemicals into the air, creating an environment that is toxic to insects. The fumes from the sublimated chemicals can also penetrate small crevices and folds in the clothing, protecting insects that may hide in these areas.

It is important to note that mothballs can be toxic and should be used with caution. They should be kept out of reach of children and pets, and should not be used in areas where people spend a lot of time, such as bedrooms or living rooms. Inhaling the fumes from mothballs can cause respiratory problems and other health issues.

Snow in the mountains

snow in the mountain
snow in the mountain

In the case of snow in the mountains, sublimation occurs when the sun’s energy heats the surface of the snow, causing the frozen water molecules to turn into water vapor without first melting into water.

This process is particularly prevalent in cold, dry environments such as high-elevation mountain ranges, where the air is thin and the temperature can fluctuate greatly between day and night.

As the snow sublimates, it can create a “frost boil” effect, where the snow appears to be boiling or bubbling as the water vapor is released. Over time, this can cause the snow to shrink and reduce, leading to a gradual loss of snow cover in the mountains.

Dye-Sublimation Printing

Dye-sublimation printing is a method of printing that uses heat to transfer dye onto a variety of materials, including fabrics, ceramics, and plastic. The process involves printing an image onto a transfer paper using special sublimation inks, which are in the form of solid dyes. The image is then placed onto a material, such as polyester fabric, and heat is applied using a heat press. The heat causes the solid dyes on the transfer paper to sublimate, or transition from a solid to a gas, and be absorbed into the fibers of the material. This creates a vibrant and permanent image that will not crack, peel, or fade over time.

The process of sublimation printing has several advantages over other printing methods. Since the dyes are absorbed into the fibers of the material, the image is less likely to fade or deteriorate over time. Additionally, the process allows for a wide range of colors and gradations to be achieved, resulting in high-quality images with a wide color gamut. Sublimation printing is also versatile, as it can be used on a wide range of materials, including fabrics, ceramics, and plastic.

One important thing to note is that the material that you want to print on must be polyester or poly coated for the sublimation process to take place.

Frost Formation

Frost Formation
Frost Formation

In the case of frost formation, sublimation occurs when water vapor in the air transitions directly into ice crystals. This process typically occurs at temperatures below freezing and is often observed in conditions of high humidity and low wind, such as on the inside of windows on a cold winter morning.

Sublimation of water vapor to form frost is a slow process, as the water vapor molecules must first collect on a surface, such as a windowpane, to form a frost layer. The process is aided by the presence of nucleation sites, such as small particles or imperfections on the surface, which provide a starting point for the formation of ice crystals. As more water vapor molecules collect on the surface and form ice crystals, the frost layer thickens.

It’s also worth noting that the process can also occur in reverse, where frost sublimates back into water vapor when the temperature rises above freezing. This is why frost may disappear from surfaces as the temperature increases or when the humidity drops and it can also be observed on the ground during a freezing rainy day.

Sublimation of Iodine

solid iodine
solid iodine

In the case of iodine, sublimation occurs when the solid form of iodine (I2) is heated and turns into a purple vapor. The iodine vapor can then be cooled and condensed back into solid iodine. This process can be repeated multiple times, making sublimation a useful method for purifying iodine.

Iodine sublimes at a relatively low temperature of around 114 °C (237 °F) and at standard pressure.

It is important to note that not all solid substances are capable of sublimation and that sublimation is different from evaporation (the process by which a liquid turns into a gas) and melting (the process by which a solid turns into a liquid).

Sublimation in perfume tablets

solid fragrance
solid fragrance

Perfume tablets can be an easy and convenient way to add fragrance to a room or an object, and do not require any power supply or batteries.

Sublimation in perfume tablets refers to the process of converting a solid fragrance into a vapor without passing through the liquid phase. Perfume tablets are small, solid blocks of fragrance that can be used to add scent to a room or clothing. They are typically made of a blend of waxes and fragrances that are solid at room temperature but will release their scent when heated.

To use a perfume tablet, you need to place it on a heat source, such as a light bulb or a radiator. As the tablet heats up, the fragrance molecules within the tablet are converted from a solid state to a vapor state, releasing their scent into the air.

The fragrance molecules in a perfume tablet are typically held in a matrix of waxes, which help to control the release of the fragrance over time. The waxes in the tablet will slowly melt as the tablet is heated, releasing the fragrance molecules in a controlled manner. This allows the fragrance to be released over a longer period, rather than all at once.

Aluminum Sublimation

Aluminum sublimation is the process of converting aluminum from a solid state directly into a gaseous state without passing through a liquid intermediate. This process is typically achieved by heating aluminum to a high enough temperature that it vaporizes.

The process of aluminum sublimation is typically carried out in a vacuum chamber to prevent the aluminum from reacting with air, which would introduce impurities into the aluminum. The vacuum also helps to speed up the sublimation process by removing air molecules that would otherwise slow down the movement of the aluminum atoms.

Aluminum Sublimation is used in a variety of applications, such as in the production of aluminum powders.

Gold Sublimation

Gold sublimation is the process of converting a solid gold substance into a gaseous state without passing through a liquid phase. This can be achieved by heating the gold to a high temperature in a vacuum chamber, where the pressure is much lower than atmospheric pressure. As the gold is heated, the molecules gain energy and begin to vibrate more rapidly, eventually reaching a point where they have enough energy to break free from their solid bonds and become a gas.

The temperature required for gold sublimation to occur varies depending on the purity of the gold and the pressure of the vacuum chamber.

The process of gold sublimation is used in a variety of applications, including the production of thin films for electronic devices and the production of gold nanoparticles for use in medical imaging and cancer treatment.

It is important to note that the gold sublimation process is not commonly used in the industry due to the high cost and low yield of the process.

Caffeine Sublimation

Caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant found in various plants, including coffee beans, tea leaves, and cocoa beans. It is also present in many medications and energy drinks. One way that caffeine can be extracted from these plants is through a process called sublimation.

Sublimation is the transition of a substance from a solid to a gas, skipping the intermediate liquid state. In the case of caffeine, the solid form of the substance is placed in a vacuum chamber where the pressure is lowered. This causes the solid caffeine to rapidly vaporize, or sublimate, into a gas. The gaseous caffeine is then condensed back into a solid form using a cooled condenser.

This process is preferred over other methods of extraction, such as solvents because it does not involve the use of harsh chemicals and leaves a purer product. Additionally, sublimation allows for the separation of caffeine from other plant compounds, resulting in a more concentrated caffeine extract.

It is also a very efficient and selective process, which is why it is used in many laboratories and industries.

Final Thoughts

Sublimation is a fascinating phenomenon that occurs in everyday life. It is the process of a solid changing directly into a gas without passing through the liquid state, and it is often seen in nature when snow changes to vapor or when ice turns to fog.

Sublimation can also be observed in everyday activities such as drying clothes or making dry ice. It is also an important occurrence in industry and science so understanding its properties is crucial for scientists and researchers alike.


Some of the frequently asked questions about sublimation.

Is sublimation in mothballs a reversible process?

Sublimation in mothballs is a reversible process. When mothballs evaporate, you can still collect the naphthalene. You just need to let the gas condense back into a solid form on a cool surface. That’s why sometimes you might see a powdery residue on things that have been stored with mothballs.

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