What Is Matter?

phases changes

Core Concept

In this tutorial, you will learn about matter, the properties of matter, an introduction about its history, the difference between matter and mass, and antimatter.

Topics Covered in Other Articles

Defining Matter

In science there are many different definitions of matter. Usually in chemistry matter is anything that has mass and takes up space. You need at least one subatomic particle to call something matter. So the substance must contain something smaller than an atom, E.g. a proton, neutron, or electron. Therefore, it can come in a few different physical states: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma.

phases of matter

It exists in four states solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. The bond strength between atoms determines the state. During a phase transition, matter changes from one state to another. For instance, ice converts to water as energy is added, and that energy is heat. If you continuously add heat energy the water begins to boil and change into steam. Add even more energy and that and the steam breaks down into component atoms.

*Don’t confuse mass with weight, mass is the amount of something in an object. Weight is the measure of the force of gravity acting on an object.

Examples of Matter

A pen, pencil, hair brush, and glass of water are all examples of matter. Each of these things have mass and take up space, it can be living and non-living. For example: dogs, bacteria, and birds all have mass and take up space so therefore they are also examples.

Matter Versus Mass

It’s important to remember that while matter does have mass, and objects that have mass contain matter, the two terms can not be used interchangeably. Matter is always conserved in closed systems while mass is not. The theory of special relativity states that mass can not be created nor destroyed, but matter, in a closed system, can disappear.

*Note, a closed system is one where the exchange of energy is allowed, but the exchange of matter is not. An example of a closed system would be a cup of tea with a lid on it. This is because the lid only allows the transfer of energy to take place with its surroundings.

Properties of Matter

In general, the properties of matter are characteristics that can be used to describe and differentiate one type of matter from another. Some examples of properties of matter include mass, density, color, hardness, melting and boiling points, and solubility.

One of the most important properties of matter is its mass, which is a measure of the amount of matter contained in an object. Mass is typically measured in units of grams or kilograms. Another important property of matter is its density, which is defined as the mass of the object divided by its volume. Density is typically measured in units of grams per cubic centimeter (g/cm^3).

The color of matter is another important property, and is determined by the wavelengths of light that are absorbed, reflected, or transmitted by the matter. The hardness of matter is a measure of its resistance to deformation or scratching, and is an important factor in many industrial and manufacturing processes.

The melting and boiling points of matter are also important properties, and are determined by the forces of attraction between the particles of the matter. The solubility of matter is a measure of its ability to dissolve in a solvent, and is important in many chemical reactions and processes.

Overall, the properties of matter are fundamental to our understanding of the physical world, and are essential for many scientific and practical applications.

Examples of Matter

Matter is anything that has mass and occupies space. Some examples of matter include solids, liquids, and gases. Some specific examples of matter include:

  • Solids: table, chair, pencil, rock, iron, gold
  • Liquids: water, juice, milk, oil, alcohol
  • Gases: air, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, natural gas

In addition to these common forms of matter, there are also many other types of matter, including plasma (the fourth state of matter), colloids, and suspensions. These types of matter are less common, but are still important in many scientific and practical applications.

What is Antimatter

Antimatter is very similar to the ordinary matter we just talked about. The only difference is that the antimatter has the opposite electric charge. For example, negatively charged electrons in antimatter are known as positrons. The positron has the same mass as the electron but has a positive charge in antimatter. The neutron is often its own antimatter partner. Researchers have not yet determined if the neutrinos is its own antiparticle.

Example of Antimatter

Weirdly enough, banana’s and the human body are examples of antimatter. Anything that naturally produces potassium-40, an isotope of potassium, will produce positrons, the antimatter version of an electron. Don’t worry, the production of potassium-40 in your body does not pose any health threats.

How is Antimatter Created

Antimatter is very real. It formed as a byproduct of the Big Bang. Although antimatter is real, it is very rare in the universe today. Humans have created antimatter using high speed collisions in particle accelerators. Scientists creating antimatter have created antihydrogen, the twin of hydrogen. Antimatter is also produced naturally. Antiparticles are produced sporadically throughout the universe. When matter and antimatter meet they cancel each other out and produce energy. So in a universe like ours that is matter dominating, it is hard for antimatter to survive for a long time.


Greek scientists were the first to wonder about matter. They wondered if you could break it into smaller pieces, would you end up with the smallest pieces? They called these small pieces atoms. The word atom literally means “which cannot be cut”. They came to a realization that atoms were indestructible. They went further into this theory and postulated that thoughts and feelings were made of atoms. While this is very much an extension of the truth, the concepts of atoms we have today differ from the Greeks.

Presentation of science (matter)

Donnell Greene

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *