Tutorials

States of Matter

Core Concept

In this tutorial, you will learn about the five states of matter and their properties.

Topics Covered in Other Articles

Vocabulary

Magnetic field – a region around a magnet or an electric current that describes the magnetic influence on moving electric charges, currents, and magnetic materials. A moving electric charge in a magnetic field experiences a force perpendicular to its own velocity.

Introduction

Matter is anything that has mass and occupies space. It constitutes atoms and compounds, which compose the physical and chemical properties. There are more than 20 states of matter; in this tutorial, we will talk about five of them: solids, liquids, gases, plasmas, and condensates.

Solids

In the solid state, the particles are tightly packed together in a fixed arrangement and have a small vibration in their fixed position. Therefore, solids have a high density and are incompressible. Solids have a definite shape and volume; they do not conform to the shape of their container.

Liquids

In the liquid state, the particles can flow around each other, giving them an indefinite shape. However, they are incompressible as they still attract each other. Similarly, liquids conform to the shape of their container. Metals can also be liquids at room temperature, for example mercury.

Gases

In the gaseous state, the particles move in random directions without attracting each other. Gases do not have a definite shape nor volume; they are compressible and have low density. Therefore, the gas particles will spread out to fill its container, as they do not conform to its shape.

Plasmas

Plasma is a subset of gases. Like gases, plasmas do not have a definite shape or volume and have lower density. However, while gases are made of molecules with a net charge of zero, plasmas are made of charged particles. 

Due to its superheated property, the electrons are stripped away forming an ionized gas. Moreover, with their highly charged property, plasmas can conduct electricity and make magnetic fields.

Examples of Plasmas

Plasma comprises approximately 99% of the universe; it glows in the form of stars, sun, nebulas, and auroras in the north and south poles. In addition, the branch of lightning in the sky and neon signs in the city streets are other examples of plasma.

Bose-Einstein Condensates (BEC)

In 1995, scientists demonstrated a man-made state of matter, Bose-Einstein condensates. It is a group of atoms cooled to near absolute zero (-273.15°C). At this temperature, the atoms do not have free energy to move relative to each other. Therefore, they begin to coalesce into a single quantum state and become identical, behaving as a single atom.

Application of Bose-Einstein condensate

Bose-Einstein condensates plays a major role in the development of energy-efficient lasers and ultrafast optical switches. 

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