States of Matter

Oct. 18, 2005

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Boy with a BeakerMatter is all around you. Your computer is matter. Air is matter. Water is matter. You are matter. In fact, you are made of the 3 major states of matter; solid, liquid and gas.

If you're curious about matter you've come to the right place!
Did you Know?The kind of science that deals with the study of matter
is called physical science.
What is matter?

Matter is anything that takes up space and has mass.

Before we look at the states of matter we need to study a few vocabulary words:

- a substance that cannot be separated into a simpler substance. Elements are made of atoms. - the smallest particle of an element that has the properties of that element. - a substance made of 2 or more elements that are chemically joined. - 2 or more substances that are mixed but not chemically joined.
Gold RingExamples: Gold, Copper, Silver
Examples: salt, water, sugar Example: fruit salad

What is matter made of?

     Now we can answer this question. All matter is made of atoms. Matter is made of either the atoms of one element or more than one element. ( Silver is made of one kind of atom while water is made of two kinds of atoms called oxygen and hydrogen.)

Did you Know?There are 90 naturally occurring elements. Scientists have been able to make about 25 more elements ! This link shows all the elements in the Periodic Table of the Elements

Did you Know?Matter has Properties. They can be chemical or physical properties

The 3 States of Matter  

      There are three main states of matter. They are SOLID, LIQUID, and GAS. Each of these states is also known as a phase. Each state has different properties. The state that matter is in depends on how much energy atoms have.

Solid Table     Atoms that don't have much energy tend to stay in place and form a solid. A solid has a definite size and shape. Atoms in a solid vibrate or jiggle but do not move from place to place.

To view an example of this, click on this Flash animation which shows the structure of ice crystals.

     Liquids are formed when temperature is increased and atoms gain energy. The atoms then move faster and spread out. Liquids don't have a definite shape but take the shape of the container they're in. If you pour liquid into a bottle, it will take the shape of that container.

In this Flash animation you'll see that liquid has particles that move past each other.

    You can feel gas when the wind blows. Air is made of many gases and is all around you. A gas is matter that has no shape, size or color of its own. As the temperature of a gas increases (when energy is added) the atoms move quickly, become widely separated and spread out in all directions. The atoms spread out equally in any container it is in. Think of a balloon. The atoms are spread equally throughout the entire balloon

In this Flash animation you'll see that a gas can really spread out.

A Table of the Properties of  The 3 States of Matter 
    microscopic views

1. Particles in a solid... 1. Particles in a liquid... 1. Particles in a gas...

...are tightly packed, usually in a regular pattern

...are close together with no regular arrangement

...are well separated with no regular arrangement

...vibrate (jiggle) but generally do not move from place to place

...vibrate, move about, and slide past each other

...vibrate and move freely at high speeds watch this

2. A solid... 2. A liquid... 2. A gas...
...retains a fixed volume and rigid shape

...has particles locked into place... does not flow easily not easily compressible
...assumes the shape of the part of the container which it occupies

...has particles which can move and slide past one another... flows easily

... is not easily compressible
...assumes the shape and volume of its container, and expand or compress to fill the whole container

...has particles that can move past one another...flows easily

... is compressible

Watch this comparison of all three states of matter.
Or this one...

Change of State 

Thermometer     A compound or element can move from one state to another, but can still be the same substance. A change of state, also called a phase change, is a physical change from one state of matter to another, for example, from solid to liquid or from liquid to gas.

How can this happen?
     The answer lies in the motion of the atoms in matter. If a physical force such as temperature or pressure changes, the state can change. If energy, in the form of temperature, is added atoms move faster. If energy (temperature) is taken away, atoms move slower.

Explore this idea further.

      Steam over a  potLet's use water as an example of how matter can exist in different states. You can see water vapor over boiling water. That vapor, a gas we call steam, can cool and condense and become a drop of water, a liquid. If you freeze that drop, it can become ice, a solid. This website explains more.

No matter what state it is in, it is always water and has the same chemical properties.

     Did you Know?
Did you know that there are more phases of matter ? We aren't as familiar with them nor do we see them everyday. They include: plasmas and quark-gluon plasmas, Bose-Einstein condensates and fermionic condensates, strange matter, liquid crystals, superfluids and supersolids and the paramagnetic and ferromagnetic phases of magnetic materials. You'll have to keep studying your physical science to learn more about these states of matter.

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