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Chemistry LibreTexts

States of Matter

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  • All of the matter that we encounter in our everyday lives is found in one of the three phases: solid, liquid, or gas. They are important in multiple ways. From simply understanding why an ice cube melts, to understanding how our refrigerator works, phase transitions are crucial to understand in chemistry. In this section it is vital to gain better knowledge of what phase transitions actually are and why these everyday events occur.

    • A gas has NEITHER a definite volume NOR shape. At the microscopic level, a gases particles are very far apart. These particles move fast and independently of each other.
    • A solid has a definite shape and definite volume. At the microscopic level, a solids particles are very close to each other.
    • A liquid has a definite volume but NOT a definite shape. In other words, a liquid can conform to the shape of its container.

    Thumbnail: The four fundamental states of matter. Clockwise from top left, they are solid, liquid, plasma, and gas, represented by an ice sculpture, a drop of water, electrical arcing from a tesla coil, and the air around clouds (technically, clouds are comprised of suspended particles of liquid water; water vapor is an invisible gas.), respectively. This file was created using other photos that are available on Wikimedia commons. To make this file I used File:Ice cherubs.jpg, File:Water drop 001.jpg, File:Wolkentoren.JPG, and File:225W Zeus Tesla coil - arcs2 (cropped).jpg.Image used with permission (CC BY-SA unported; Spirit469).