What is the Difference Between Similar But Different Things, Terms, and Objects

What is the Difference between Fumes, Steam, Gas, Vapor and Smoke

Matter exists in solid, liquid and gaseous states. Solid and liquids are visible but when matter changes its form to gas, it usually becomes invisible for the naked eye, unless gas has some color. Fumes, steam, gas, vapor and smoke are some terms, which are used interchangeably for the third state of matter. Here we are describing difference between them.


Fumes are generally referred to gas or vapor. This term is used when one wants to refer to that gas which is dangerous, when inhaled by human and animals. It can be simply irritating for eyes or nose or nay other organ. Many elements convert into fumes, at high temperature.


Steam is a technical term, which is used for gaseous phase of water. When water boils, some parts of it convert to steam. Steam has more heat as compared to the boiling water. At higher temperature, steam becomes the superheated steam.  Steam is used as a source of energy, steam engine is the first step in this direction, now a day steam turbines are used for power generation and many other purposes.


Gas is one of the three states of matter, when they are defined in classical way. When heat is provided to solid, it becomes liquid and then to gas. Sometime solid can turn directly to gas, without becoming liquid. Different elements have different boiling points. Pure gases are made up of individual atoms, like Oxygen, Nitrogen and Helium, while others are mixture of two or more elements like carbon dioxide.


When a substance comes in its gaseous phase, at temperature which is lower than its critical point, it is called as vapor. Vapor can be condensed to liquid or solid by increasing the pressure only and keeping temperature, same. Vapor can co-exist with its liquid form, and in this condition both states are at equilibrium.


Smoke is the collection of airborne solid, liquid and gases, which are emitted as a result of combustion. Smoke is by product of fire, which is unwanted and considered as pollution these days. Smoke is also used as flavoring agent in some cases. Fumigation is a method for controlling pest growth.

Fumes vs Steam vs Gas vs Vapor vs Smoke

Fumes, steam, gas and vapor are quite similar, but there is little difference between them. A fume is gaseous state of an element or mixture of substance, which are dangerous or irritating for living organisms when inhaled. On the other hand, steam is simply gaseous form of water. Steam is used for commercial purposes also; steam engines and turbine are examples. Gas is the third state of matter, which can be pure elements like oxygen or a mixture of two, like carbon dioxide. Vapor is the gaseous form of a substance, when it reaches to gas state at lower temperature than its critical point. Smoke is different than all these terms. Smoke is by product of fire, which is considered as pollution now.

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