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States of Matter
   
Metal kaleidoscope spinner by Patrick Hoesly on Flickr

States of matter are the distinct forms that different phases of matter take on. Three states of matter are known in everyday experience: solid, liquid, and gas.

 

  • Solid is the state in which matter maintains a fixed volume and shape.

 

  • Liquid is the state in which its volume varies only slightly, but adapts to the shape of its container.

 

  • Gas is the state in which matter expands to occupy the volume and shape of its container.


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    Grotto in an iceberg, photographed during the British Antarctic Expedition of 1911-1913, 5 Jan 1911 by National Library NZ on The Commons on Flickr

    Solid

    The particles (ions, atoms or molecules) are packed closely together. The forces between particles are strong enough so that the particles cannot move freely but can only vibrate. As a result, a solid has a stable, definite shape, and a definite volume. Solids can only change their shape by force, as when broken or cut.

     

    Solids can be transformed into liquids by melting, and liquids can be transformed into solids by freezing.

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    [Explore] Deep Blue. (double splash) by Julian Evil  on Flickr

    Liquid

     

    A liquid is a nearly incompressible fluid that conforms to the shape of its container but retains a (nearly) constant volume independent of pressure. The volume is definite if the temperature and pressure are constant. When a solid is heated above its melting point, it becomes liquid, given that the pressure is higher than the triple point of the substance.

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    Smokin'! (2) by Kyle May on Flickr

    Gas

    A gas is a compressible fluid. Not only will a gas conform to the shape of its container but it will also expand to fill the container.

    In a gas, the typical distance between neighboring molecules is much greater than the molecular size. A gas has no definite shape or volume, but occupies the entire container in which it is confined. A liquid may be converted to a gas by heating at constant pressure to the boiling point, or else by reducing the pressure at constant temperature.

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