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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. Matter is anything made of atoms and molecules. 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 only find it in a few forms. As of 1995, scientists have identified five physical states of matter. Each of those states is sometimes called a phase. They may even discover one more state by the time you get old.

Five States of Matter

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 noticed by William Crookes in 1879. The scientists who worked with the Bose-Einstein condensate received a Nobel Prize for their work in 1995.

But 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 all fluidy at room temperature. Gases are there, but you usually smell them before you can see them. You don't see them because their molecules are really far apart. The BEC is all about molecules that are really close to each other (even closer than atoms in a solid).

Changing States of Matter

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

Elements and compounds can move from one physical state to another and not change their basic atomic parts. Oxygen (O2) as a gas still has the same 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 just add a second oxygen atom, you would have hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). The molecules in your glass would not be water anymore. The reality of creating hydrogen peroxide is more difficult.

A chemical change happens when the atoms in a molecule are moved around or when atoms are added or taken away. Chemical changes happen when bonds between atoms are created or destroyed. Changing physical states of matter is about changing densities, pressures, temperatures, and other physical properties. The basic chemical structure does not change when there is a physical change.

Related Activities

Chemistry Quiz General
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Matter Quiz General
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Keywords to 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. Remember that 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. Some of these states are still theoretical.

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 other smaller particles of matter as well. 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. As the number of atoms increases, you have more matter. As you have more matter, you have more mass.

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. If you have a balloon the size of a bowling ball, it may be the same size, but will definitely have a smaller mass. There is less matter in the balloon. 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 will have 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 as 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.

Reference Materials

Encyclopædia Britannica:

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> 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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