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States of Matter : Solids, Liquids, Gases, and Plasma

Jan 10, 2023

States of Matter

States of matter are much more than solids, liquids, and gases!

If water transforms into frost, is it still water? Well, the answer is yes! The world is full of solids, liquids, gases, and other things that can change states without altering the chemical composition. In this article, students will learn about what is matter, how many states of matter are there and its 4 states of matter.


What is Matter?

Matter is a component composed of different types of particles that occupy their own space and has their relative mass. According to contemporary physics principles, each sort of particle has a distinct mass and size.

So what is matter? Matter is fundamentally made up of elementary particles known as quarks and leptons, which are regarded as elementary particles since they are not made up of smaller elements of matter. Quarks are clusters of subatomic particles that interact with a strong force to form protons and neutrons. Leptons are groups of subatomic particles that react to weaker forces. They are a type of elementary particle that also comprises electrons.


What are the 4 States of Matter?

Everything in this universe that has a certain mass and uses definite space and volume is called “matter.” Every matter comprises atoms of a particular element. At times atoms can connect tightly together, while at the same time, they can also be widely dispersed.

The 4 states of matter generally are characterised using attributes that may be observed or sensed. A solid is a matter that appears hard and has a fixed shape; a liquid is a matter that feels fluid and has a fixed volume but not a fixed shape. A gas is defined as matter that may alter its shape and volume.


Although some beginner chemistry textbooks refer to solid, liquid, and gas as the three states of matter, the higher-level textbooks identify plasma as the 4 states of matter. Plasma, like a gas, may change shape and volume; unlike gas, it could also change its electric charges.

The same atom, combination, or solution might behave drastically based on the state of matter. Solid water (for example, ice) seems hard and cold, but liquid water is damp and movable. It’s worth noting, though, that water is an uncommon type of stuff in that it increases rather than shrinks as it creates a crystalline structure.


Did You Know?

A phase transition is the transfer of one form of matter into another. The terminologies melting and freezing represent transition phases between the solid and liquid states, while condensation and evaporation indicate the transitions between the liquid and gas states.


So the answer to the question, how many states of matter are there in this universe is as follows:


When the force of attraction between molecules is higher than the force of energy moving them apart, it forms solids. Individual molecules are held near one another and cannot go beyond one another. The atoms or molecules of solids always remain in slight motion. Although that mobility is confined to mechanical vibrations, individual molecules remain constant and vibrate next to one another. The amount of vibration in a solid increases as its temperature rises. Still, the solid preserves its volume and structure because the molecules remain locked relative to one other. 


A solid has a distinct structure and volume, the molecules that constitute a solid are packed densely together, thereby restricting the movement of the atoms. Some common examples of crystalline solids are sugar, table salt, diamonds, and several other minerals. When liquids or gases cool, solids form; ice is a form of a cooled liquid that has solidified. Other than crystalline solids, there are various examples of room temperature solids; some of them are rocks, metals, wood etc.


When the energy (typically in the form of heat) of a system is raised, the stiff configuration of the solid state is broken down, resulting in the formation of liquids. In liquids, molecules can travel and collide with others, yet they remain relatively near to one another, as in solids. The intermolecular forces between the molecules of liquids draw them together and are swiftly broken down. The mobility of individual molecules rises as the temperature of a liquid rises. As a result, liquids can “flow” into the shape of their container, and the molecules of liquid cannot be compressed easily. Thus, liquids have an unknown shape but a known volume.


Oil and water are two liquid examples. Gases liquefy when they cool, as water vapour does. It happens when the gas molecules slow down and break energy. Similarly, adding heat solids can be converted into liquid form; one of its best examples is molten lava. It is a solid rock that has been liquefied due to tremendous heat.

Interesting Fact

Satyendra Bose and Albert Einstein anticipated BEC in the 1920s. However, it was not until 1995 that two other physicists, Carl Wieman and Eric Cornell, succeeded in developing it. They termed BEC after its primary theorists and were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2001 for their research.


When the energy level between the molecules in the system increases dramatically, it forms gases. Thus, gas molecules have very little interconnection with one another. In the gas state, molecules can move quickly and freely in any direction over great distances. The mobility of individual molecules grows as the volatility of a gas rises. Gases have a low density and diffuse to fill their carriers. Gases can be compressed quickly and have an indeterminate shape because the molecules are widely spaced and can travel around effortlessly in the gas state. 

A gas can hardly have a fixed volume and a fixed shape. Some gases may be seen and sensed by humans, while most are intangible. Examples of gases are air, hydrogen, oxygen, and helium. The Earth’s atmosphere is composed of gases such as oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide.


Plasmas are ionised gases that are extremely hot. Plasmas arise at extremely high energy circumstances, so high that molecules are split off, and only free atoms survive. More amazing, plasmas have far too much energy that the outer layer of electrons of atoms is swept off, thereby resulting in a gas of extremely energetic, charged ions. Plasmas differ significantly from gases because their atoms are charged ions, making them the 4 states of matter.

It has neither a fixed volume nor a fixed shape. Plasma is frequently encountered in ionised gases, yet it is different from a gas due to its unique features. The plasma is electrically conductive due to free electrical charges that are not connected to atoms or ions. Heat and ionisation of gases can be used to create plasma. Examples of plasma are lightning, stars, neon signs and fluorescent lights.


Scientists are constantly uncovering new states of matter! Other states of matter besides the four major states are Bose-Einstein condensate, superfluid, Rydberg molecules, fermionic condensate, photonic matter, quantum Hall state, and dropleton. However, all matter of whatever type shares the fundamental attribute of inertia, which prohibits a material structure from responding instantly to attempts to change its state of motion or action, as defined in Isaac Newton’s three laws of motion. Students must understand this topic thoroughly to achieve greater levels of understanding.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Describe the process of converting matter into energy.

Ans. In particular situations, matter can be converted into energy by atomic reactions, also known as nuclear reactions. These nuclear reactions alter the nuclei of the atoms. It distinguishes them from ordinary chemical reactions.

The sun’s hydrogen fusion reaction is the most prominent example of an atomic reaction. This great pressure within the sun – and other stars – drives hydrogen atoms to fuse (thus fusion) to generate helium atoms.

2. Explain the various processes that can change the state of matter.

Ans. Matter can be transformed from one state to another by changing its physical or chemical properties. The following are the key methods that help change the matter into different states.

  • It is a process where heat is applied to the solid, thereby converting it into liquid.
  • When heat is eliminated from a liquid, its particles slow down and cluster in one location, resulting in freezing.
  • Sublimation converts a solid directly into a gas without passing through the liquid phase.
  • The process of transforming a liquid into a gas through evaporation or boiling is known as vaporisation.
  • The deposition is a process that converts a gas directly into a solid without passing through the liquid phase.

3. What is Bose-Einstein Condensate?

Ans. Bose-Einstein Condensate is regarded as the fifth state of matter. It was created by combining lasers and magnets at extremely low temperatures, just a few degrees beyond absolute zero. At these temperatures, molecular mobility nearly ceases, resulting in no kinetic energy transmission from one atom to another. As a result, the atoms begin to cluster together, and thousands of individual atoms combine to form one super-atom. Bose-Einstein Condensate can be performed under various conditions. Wieman and Cornell performed it with rubidium.


States of Matter


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