Skip to main content
Select Source:

Sublimation

SUBLIMATION

Sublimation is a process that diverts the flow of instinctual energy from its immediate sexual aim and subordinates it to cultural endeavors.

The idea of sublimation leads back at once to the alchemical metaphor of the transmutation of base metal into gold, and to aesthetics, which from the ancient world (Longinus) to Romanticism (Goethe) saw the sublime as the transcendence of the individual's limitations. The concept evolved in Freud's work from the idea of the ennoblement or embellishment of a fantasy (Draft L [1950a (1895)]) to that of a genuine intra-instinctual process, the transformation of object libido into ego libido before it could assume new aims (1923b).

The unresolved complexity of the notion of sublimation means, however, that the term designates a set of questions rather than a well-circumscribed concept (Laplanche, 1980).

Sublimation would appear to be a very special vicissitude of the instinct, for its diversion of libidinal energy harnesses instinctual impulses in a way congenial to the superego and its society. Retransformation is possible, however, and therein the original instinctual force may regain the upper hand (resexualization of sublimated homosexual impulses (1911c [1910])). Desexualization alone cannot define the process of sublimation, which is not to be confused with inhibition or reaction formations, even if it plays a fundamental role because of its ability to exchange an originally sexual aim for another, which is its "psychical parent" (1908d).

As for the effect of sublimation on the object it valorizes in the eyes of society, Freud took great care to discourage any risk of confusion between sublimation and idealization, the latter implying an overestimation of the supposedly "sublime" object (1914c).

The development of the ability to sublimate ("Fähigkeit zur Sublimierung ") was related for Freud both to the individual's constitutional disposition (the initial strength of the sexual instinct) and to the events of childhood (the link between trauma and the intensity of infantile curiosity; cf., the case of Leonardo da Vinci being a good example). Sublimation occurred at the expense of the polymorphously perverse drives of childhood (especially bisexuality), which were diverted and applied to other aims, as witness the sublimation of anal eroticism into an interest in money, or the link between urethral eroticism and ambition. This process contributed to the formation of character traits. The component instincts were of particular significance here: the instinct to see could be sublimated into artistic contemplation and into the instinct to know (1910c), while sublimated aggression could manifest itself as creative and innovative activity.

But Freud always emphasized the risks associated with sublimation of the instincts when it takes place at the expense of the sexual and deprives the subject of immediate satisfaction. Although sublimation appears as the guarantor of the social bond and promoter of culture, it is, nonetheless, a dangerous demand, a "ruse of civilization" (Mellor-Picaut, 1979) when it presents individual sublimations as ideal models. For Freud, sublimation is not the core of an axiological approach to psychoanalysis, and the introduction of narcissism represented an important turning point in his theory. Sublimation took place "through the mediation of the ego, which begins by changing sexual object-libido into narcissistic libido, and then perhaps goes on to give it a different aim" (1923b, p. 30). Sublimation no longer occurs at the expense of the object-libido but offers the narcissistic libido a needed extension. However, it does not protect the individual, who is left at the mercy of the death instinct.

Freud was against making sublimation a privileged goal of the treatment, one that could even be advocated by the analyst (1915a [1914]). In this, he disagreed with Carl G. Jung (1914d), as well as Lou Andreas-Salomé, whom he had also accused of "blab-bering about the ideal" in his letters to Jung (January 10, 1912), James J. Putnam (May 4, 1911), and Oskar Pfister (October 9, 1918). In all these cases he was struggling against the temptation of an anagogic approach to psychoanalysis. It may be assumed that this threat of having such a complex concept corrupted contributed to the fact that it has never been thoroughly developed. One thinks in particular of an unpublished draft on sublimation written for Freud's projected book on metapsychology.

The concept of sublimation has been discussed by many of Freud's followers, though without any significant contributions being made to metapsychology. In later years Melanie Klein became one of the most important commentators on sublimation, primarily in connection with epistemophilia. In France, Daniel Lagache (1962) and Jean Laplanche (1980) have both written essays on sublimation.

Sublimation, which is often mentioned in the literature, by emphasizing the desexualization of goals and the social valorization of the object, remains both an essential concept and an unresolved question for psychoanalysis.

Sophie de Mijolla-Mellor

See also: Anality; Analytic psychology; Anthropology and psychoanalysis; Applied psychoanalysis and the interactions of psychoanalysis; Character; Civilization (Kultur ); Defense; Depressive position; Desexualization; Drive; Ego; Ego autonomy; Ego and the Id, The ; Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense, The ; Eroticism, anal; Eroticism, urethral; Friendship; Group psychology; Healing; Idealization; Identification with the aggressor; Ideology; Intellectualization; Knowledge (instinct for); Latency period; Law of the Father; Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of his Childhood ; Pleasure ego/reality ego; Pleasure of thinking; Psychic apparatus; Reaction formation; Reciprocal paths of influence (libidinal coexcitation); Reparation; Repetition; Rite and ritual; Science and psychoanalysis; Sexuality; Superego; Symbol; Symbolization, process of; Thought; Work (as a psychoanalytic concept); Working-off mechanisms.

Bibliography

Freud. Sigmund. (1908d). "Civilized" sexual morality and modern nervous illness. SE, 9: 177-204.

. (1910c). Leonardo da Vinci and a memory of his childhood. SE, 11: 57-137.

. (1915a [1914]). Observations on transference love. (Further recommendations on the technique of psychoanalysis III). SE, 12: 157-171.

. (1914d). On the history of the psycho-analytic movement. SE, 14: 1-66.

. (1930a [1929]). Civilization and its discontents. SE, 21: 57-145.

. (1923b). The ego and the id. SE, 19: 1-66.

Lagache, Daniel. (1984). La sublimation et les valeurs. In Oeuvres completes 5. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. (Original work published 1962)

Laplanche, Jean. (1980). Problématiques III, la sublimation. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Mellor-Picaut, Sophie. (1979). La sublimation ruse de la civilisation. Psychanalyseà l 'Université, 4.

Further Reading

Arlow, Jacob, rep. (1955). Panel: Sublimation. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 3, 515-527.

Kris, Ernst. (1955). Neutralization and sublimation. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 10, 30-46.

Loewald, Hans W. (1988). Sublimation: Inquiries into theoretical psychoanalysis. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Sublimation." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . Encyclopedia.com. 3 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Sublimation." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 3, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/psychology/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/sublimation

"Sublimation." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . Retrieved November 03, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/psychology/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/sublimation

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

sublimation

sublimation A term used by psychoanalysts, to refer to the unconscious process by which a sexual impulse is deflected, so as to express itself in some non-sexual and socially acceptable activity. For example, a child may wish to play with faeces, but in the light of parental disapproval may play with pies or make clay models instead (see C. Brenner , An Elementary Textbook of Psychoanalysis, 1974
).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"sublimation." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Encyclopedia.com. 3 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"sublimation." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 3, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/sublimation

"sublimation." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Retrieved November 03, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/sublimation

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

sublimation

sublimation (sub-li-may-shŏn) n. the replacement of socially undesirable means of gratifying motives or desires by means that are socially acceptable. See also defence mechanism, repression.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"sublimation." A Dictionary of Nursing. . Encyclopedia.com. 3 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"sublimation." A Dictionary of Nursing. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 3, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/caregiving/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/sublimation

"sublimation." A Dictionary of Nursing. . Retrieved November 03, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/caregiving/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/sublimation

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

sublimation (in psychology)

sublimation, in psychology: see defense mechanism; psychoanalysis.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"sublimation (in psychology)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 3 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"sublimation (in psychology)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 3, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sublimation-psychology

"sublimation (in psychology)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved November 03, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sublimation-psychology

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

sublimation

sublimation Direct evaporation from ice. In meteorology, the term is also applied to the reverse process, in which water vapour changes directly to the solid phase. See also ABLATION.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"sublimation." A Dictionary of Earth Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. 3 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"sublimation." A Dictionary of Earth Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 3, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/sublimation

"sublimation." A Dictionary of Earth Sciences. . Retrieved November 03, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/sublimation

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

sublimation

sublimation Direct evaporation from ice. In meteorology, ‘deposition’ is the term applied to the reverse process, in which water vapour changes directly to the solid phase. See also ablation.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"sublimation." A Dictionary of Ecology. . Encyclopedia.com. 3 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"sublimation." A Dictionary of Ecology. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 3, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/sublimation-0

"sublimation." A Dictionary of Ecology. . Retrieved November 03, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/sublimation-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Sublimation

Sublimation

Sublimation is the term that describes the change of state of a material from a frozen form to a gas or visa versa. In sublimation, there is no intermediate liquid phase.

A well-known example of sublimation occurs with dry ice, the frozen form of carbon dioxide. When exposed to air, dry ice changes directly to vapor, which is visible as a cloud immediately above the frozen CO2. In the case of dry ice, the frozen CO2 is energetically more stable as a gas at room temperature than as the frozen solid.

The gaseous tail that develops behind a comet as it approaches the sun is another example of sublimation. Frost and snowflakes are products of a reverse path of sublimation, where water changes directly from the gaseous state to the solid state.

Sublimation has practical applications in forensic science . Forensic analysis of a crime or accident scene often relies on the examination of photographic evidence after the scene has been cleaned. A dye-sublimation printer enables digital pictures to be rendered in print form in a very realistic and detailed fashion, which helps investigators in their analysis.

The basis of a dye-sublimation printer is the vaporization of various colored dyes housed in the printer. The vaporized dyes penetrate the glossy surface of the photographic paper before returning to their solid form. The vapor-to-solid dye sublimation creates a gentle gradation at the edge of each pixel of color, rather than a sudden border between the dye and the paper (as is the case with inkjet type printers). The result is a more realistic image that yields more detail.

Dye sublimation is also used to create digital watermarks on documents. This enables a forensic examiner to differentiate an authentic document from a forgery.

Sublimation can be important in the recovery of compounds that are suspended or dissolved in a fluid or a solid like dry ice. The compounds can be recovered, at least in crude form, by allowing the suspending matrix to sublimate away. This method of recovery is usually gentle, which is advantageous in preserving the chemical structure or even activity of the target drug (i.e., cocaine) or enzyme. Many compounds will sublimate when heated. The effective temperature can be characteristic of the compound and can be measured in a forensic laboratory inexpensively, using a common hot plate.

see also Analytical instrumentation; Exothermic reactions.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Sublimation." World of Forensic Science. . Encyclopedia.com. 3 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Sublimation." World of Forensic Science. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 3, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sublimation

"Sublimation." World of Forensic Science. . Retrieved November 03, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sublimation

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

sublimation

sublimation Direct change from solid to gas, without an intervening liquid phase. Most substances can sublimate at certain pressures, but usually not at atmospheric pressure. See also condensation; evaporation

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"sublimation." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 3 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"sublimation." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 3, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sublimation

"sublimation." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved November 03, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sublimation

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Sublimation

Sublimation

Sublimation is the term that describes the change of state of a material from a frozen form to a gas or visa versa. In sublimation, there is no intermediate liquid phase.

A well-known example of sublimation occurs with dry ice, the frozen form of carbon dioxide. When exposed to air, dry ice changes directly to vapor, which is visible as a cloud immediately above the frozen CO2. In the case of dry ice, the frozen CO2 is energetically more stable as a gas at room temperature than as the frozen solid.

The gaseous tail that develops behind a comet as it approaches the sun is another example of sublimation. Frost and snowflakes are products of a reverse path of sublimation, where water changes directly from the gaseous state to the solid state.

Sublimation has practical applications in forensic science. Forensic analysis of a crime or accident scene often relies on the examination of photographic evidence after the scene has been cleaned. A dye-sublimation printer enables digital pictures to be rendered in print form in a very realistic and detailed fashion, which helps investigators in their analysis.

The basis of a dye-sublimation printer is the vaporization of various colored dyes housed in the printer. The vaporized dyes penetrate the glossy surface of the photographic paper before returning to their solid form. The vapor-to-solid dye sublimation creates a gentle gradation at the edge of each pixel of color, rather than a sudden border between the dye and the paper (as is the case with inkjet type printers). The results is a more realistic image that yields more detail.

Dye sublimation is also used to create digital water-marks on documents. This enables a forensic examiner to differentiate an authentic document from a forgery.

Sublimation can be important in the recovery of compounds that are suspended or dissolved in a fluid or a solid like dry ice. The compounds can be recovered, at least in crude form, by allowing the suspending matrix to sublimate away. This method of recovery is usually gentle, which is advantageous in preserving the chemical structure or even activity of the target drug (i.e., cocaine) or enzyme. Many compounds will sublimate when heated. The effective temperature can be characteristic of the compound and can be measured in a forensic laboratory inexpensively, using a common hot plate.

See also Crime scene investigation; Forensic science.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Sublimation." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Encyclopedia.com. 3 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Sublimation." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 3, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sublimation-0

"Sublimation." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Retrieved November 03, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sublimation-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.