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States of Matter

Matter is the Stuff Around You

The Earth is one large mixture of gases, liquids and solids.

Matter is everything around you. Atoms and molecules are all composed of matter. Matter is anything that has mass and takes up space. If you are new to the idea of mass, it is the amount of stuff in an object. We talk about the difference between mass and weight in another section. Matter is sometimes related to light and electromagnetic radiation.

Even though matter can be found all over the Universe, you will only find it in a few forms on Earth. We cover five states of matter on the site. Each of those states is sometimes called a phase. There are many other states of matter that exist in extreme environments. Scientists will probably discover more states as we continue to explore the Universe.

Five States of Matter

Five States of Matter: Condensate, Solid, Liquid, Gas, Plasma

You should know about solids, liquids, gases, plasmas, and one state called the Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC). Scientists have always known about solids, liquids, and gases. Plasma was a new idea when it was identified by William Crookes in 1879. The scientists who worked with the Bose-Einstein condensate received a Nobel Prize for their work in 1995.

What makes a state of matter? It's about the physical state of the molecules and atoms. Think about solids. They are often hard and brittle. Liquids are fluidy, can move around a little, and fill up containers. Gases are always around you, but the molecules of a gas are much farther apart than the molecules in a liquid. If a gas has an odor, you’ll be able to smell it before you can see it. The BEC is all about atoms that are even closer and less energetic than atoms in a solid.

Changing States of Matter

Physical change of water into ice versus chemical change of hydrogen peroxide into water.

Molecules can move from one physical state to another and not change their basic structure. Oxygen (O2) as a gas has the same chemical properties as liquid oxygen. The liquid state is colder and denser, but the molecules (the basic parts) are still the same. Water (H2O) is another example. A water molecule is made up of two hydrogen (H) atoms and one oxygen (O) atom. It has the same molecular structure whether it is a gas, liquid, or solid. Although its physical state may change, its chemical state remains the same.

So you're asking, "What is a chemical change?" Let's start with a glass of pure water. If the formula of water were to change, that would be a chemical change. If you could add a second oxygen atom to a water molecule, you would have hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). The molecules would not be water anymore. The reality of creating hydrogen peroxide is more difficult.

Chemical changes occur when the bonds between atoms in a molecule are created or destroyed. Changes in the physical state are related to changes in the environment such as temperature, pressure, and other physical forces. Generally, the basic chemical structure does not change when there is a physical change. Of course, in extreme environments such as the Sun, no molecule is safe from destruction.

Next Stop On Chem4Kids Tour
Next Page on Matter

> Overview
- States
- Phase Change I
- Phase Change II
- Chemical-Physical
- Solids
- Liquids
- Evaporation
- Gases
- Plasmas
- BE Condensate
- Mixtures I
- Mixtures II
- Solutions I
- Solutions II
- Mixture Ex.


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Alien Matter in the Solar System (NASA Video)
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Chemistry Quiz

Matter Quiz

Keywords for Review

States: States of matter are the different forms in which matter exists. The easy states to remember are solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. Although you might not find it around you every day, there is more plasma in the Universe than any state of visible matter. Plasma is found in stars and between planets, stars, and systems of every galaxy. As you learn more, you will discover several other states of matter.

Atoms: The basic unit of matter. Atoms are not the smallest pieces of matter you will find. They are made of protons, neutrons, and electrons. There are even smaller particles of matter. However, your studies will focus on atoms and the different types of atoms that make up each element of the periodic table. There are also variations of atoms called ions and isotopes.

Mass: Mass is the amount of matter in a thing. Usually, when a thing is heavier, it has a greater mass. If you have a piece of iron the size of a marble and a piece of iron the size of a bowling ball, the bowling ball will have more mass. That example looked at similar substances. When you use a scale, you measure weight. Weight is dependent on gravity while mass is not. Mass is measured in kilograms.

Volume: The amount of space than an object can occupy. A balloon has a volume similar to a bowling ball, but it will have a much different mass. You will usually encounter the idea of volume when you learn about gases and liquids. Gases and liquids can change their shape easily, but still take up the same volume. The concept of volume is also related to pressure. As pressure goes up or down, the volume of a gas changes because the distance between the molecules changes. Volume is measured in cubic meters or liters.

Dark Matter: A theoretical form of matter that we cannot see. It does not emit electromagnetic radiation, so we are not able to see or detect it. Astronomers believe it may make up 84.5% of all matter in the Universe. When they studied the visible matter of the Universe, they found that something was exerting a gravitational effect on the visible matter. However, the source could not be found. That hidden source of gravity has been described as dark matter.

Matterhorn: The Matterhorn is NOT named after matter in any way. Matterhorn is a German name for a large mountain in the Pennine Alps of Europe. It’s peak reaches over fourteen thousand feet above sea level and is one of the most recognized mountains in the world. And yes… It is a ride at Disneyland in California.

Useful Reference Materials
Wikipedia (Matter):
Wikipedia (States of Matter):
Wikipedia (Dark Matter):
Encyclopædia Britannica:

- Chem4Kids: States of Matter
- Chem4Kids: Chemical Reactions
- Chem4Kids: Atomic Structure
- Biology4Kids: Scientific Method
- Physics4Kids: Heat Expansion
- Geography4Kids: Earth Structure
- Geography4Kids: Hydrosphere
- Geography4Kids: Earth's Atmosphere
- Cosmos4Kids: Vacuum of Space

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