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States of Matter


We can observe many thing around us. They have different shapes, size, color, odor etc. Matter exhibit different chemical and physical properties which make them different from other things. How can we differentiate between different Matters? There must be some criteria of differentiation between different substances. In general a matter can be defined as the substance which occupies certain mass and volume. To differentiate different matter we need to work at particle level. 

The particle nature of matter can be proved with the help of sugar or salt solution. When we dissolve table salt or sugar in water, after some time the particles of sugar / salt disappear completely. This is because particles of sugar or salt distribute themselves between particles of water. It proves that matter is composed of certain particles which have a range of intermolecular space between them. All matter have different shapes and some of them take the shape of container. For example an iron nail has a certain shape whereas as water takes the shape of container. It proves that there is certain force of attraction between particles of matter. The strength of this intermolecular force of attraction vary with different matter. The conversion of one state to another change the intermolecular forces and also intermolecular distance between particles. On the basis of particles nature, there are five states of matter.

States of Matter Definition

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State of matter can be defined as the distinct forms in which matter can exist in nature. There are mainly three states of matter; solid, liquid and gaseous state of matter. Some other states of matter also exist such as Ionized Plasma, Quark-Gluon Plasma, Bose-Einstein Condensate and Fermionic Condensate.

On the basis of physical composition states of matter can be classified as solid, liquid and gaseous states. They are also called as physical states of matter. 

Physical States of Matter

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We must have seen different substances like ice, wood, water, vapors etc. We can easily differentiate between them with the help of their composition and appearance. Solids can be defined as the substances which have fixed shape and container and does not depend on shape of container. The rigid shape of solids is due to strong intermolecular forces between solid particles that causes least intermolecular distance between particles.

Because of least intermolecular distance they are practically incompressible. Liquid is another physical state of matter which has a fixed volume but it always occupy the shape of container. Compare to solids, liquids are relatively more compressible than solids. In liquid state, the particles are relatively closer but because of weak intermolecular forces they can move past one another that causes fluidity in this physical state of matter.

Gases are most reactive and mobile physical state of matter. They have least intermolecular forces between gas particles with large intermolecular distance between them that makes them compressible even more than liquids. They always take the shape of container and move freely in it.

Changes in States of Matter

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Physical states of matter can interconvertible into each other with the effect of temperature and pressure. We can observe the interconversion of these physical states in our surroundings also. When we boil water in a pan, we can observe water vapors above the liquid surface.

So we can say that liquid water converts to gaseous vapor at high temperature. As we increase the temperature, the kinetic energy of liquid particles increases that decrease the intermolecular force of attraction between them. The random movement of particles increases the intermolecular distance that causes conversion of liquid to gas state of matter. 

The conversion of liquid state to gaseous state is called as evaporation process. The reverse process of gaseous state to liquid state is called as condensation. When we keep a lid over same pan after some time, we can observe water droplets on lid. Water droplets can be observed on the outer surface of glass filled with cold water. This is due to condensation of moisture from warm hot air. 

Another interconversion is from solid to liquid and vice-versa. Solids have strong intermolecular forces between particles therefore as temperature increases the kinetic energy of solid particles increases that causes conversion of solid to liquid state of matter. Ice to water or solid to liquid conversion is called as melting or fusion.

We must have seen naphthalene balls or moth balls which keep moth away from our clothes. These balls reduce in size with time that is because of sublimation of solid to gaseous state. The conversion of gases to solid is called as deposition. On the basis of atomic level; matter can be classified as pure substances and mixture. Pure substances have constant composition and can further classified as element and compounds. Elements are simplest form of any substance that cannot separate further by chemical or physical methods. Today we have a long form of periodic table in which all know elements are placed according to their atomic number. Elements combine to form compounds in which atoms of same or different are bonded through chemical bonds. 

Mixtures are composed by two or more substances which are not bonded chemically with each other. On the basis of composition, mixtures can be classified as homogenous and heterogeneous mixture. Homogeneous mixtures have uniform compositions such as salt in water or sugar in water whereas heterogeneous mixtures have two or more different phases such as sand in water or oil in water. 

Fifth State of Matter

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In general, solid, liquid and gaseous state of matter can be observed in our surroundings.  There are two more physical states of matter which exist at extremes conditions of temperature and pressure. Bose-Einstein condensate is a super cooled state of matter in which due to very low temperature atoms exist as a bunch of together. Because of low temperature, the constitute atoms have least kinetic energy and therefore remain as bunch.

The super-heated state of matter is called as plasma. Because of high temperature, atoms spread far apart from each other. Atoms exist in ionic form therefore plasma state is also called as ionized plasma.