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Chemistry LibreTexts

5: Solids and Liquids

  • Page ID
    208996
    • 5.1: Classification of Matter
      Matter can be classified according to physical and chemical properties. Matter is anything that occupies space and has mass. The three states of matter are solid, liquid, and gas. A physical change involves the conversion of a substance from one state of matter to another, without changing its chemical composition. Most matter consists of mixtures of pure substances, which can be homogeneous (uniform in composition) or heterogeneous (different regions possess different compositions & properties.
    • 5.2: Phase Transitions - Melting, Boiling, and Subliming
      Phase changes can occur between any two phases of matter. All phase changes occur with a simultaneous change in energy. All phase changes are isothermal.

    Liquids flow when a small force is placed on them, even if only very slowly. Solids, however, may deform under a small force, but they return to their original shape when the force is relaxed. This is how glass behaves: it goes back to its original shape (unless it breaks under the applied force). Observers also point out that telescopes with glass lenses to focus light still do so even decades after manufacture-a circumstance that would not be so if the lens were liquid and flowed.

    There is an urban legend that glass is an extremely thick liquid rather than a solid, even at room temperature. Proponents claim that old windows are thicker at the bottom than at the top, suggesting that the glass flowed down over time. Unfortunately, the proponents of this idea have no credible evidence that this is true, as old windows were likely not subject to the stricter manufacturing standards that exist today. Also, when mounting a piece of glass that has an obviously variable thickness, it makes structural sense to put the thicker part at the bottom, where it will support the object better.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\) A woman cleaning glass © Thinkstock. Is this woman cleaning a solid or a liquid? Contrary to some claims, glass is a solid, not a very thick liquid.

    Liquids flow when a small force is placed on them, even if only very slowly. Solids, however, may deform under a small force, but they return to their original shape when the force is relaxed. This is how glass behaves: it goes back to its original shape (unless it breaks under the applied force). Observers also point out that telescopes with glass lenses to focus light still do so even decades after manufacture—a circumstance that would not be so if the lens were liquid and flowed.

    Glass is a solid at room temperature. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise!