Let’s learn some facts about states of matter. Once you have finished the article, review our question sheet in the activity section to test your knowledge.
Matter is everything that we come across in our lives, like the air you breathe, the clothes you wear, cool drinks – literally everything! In fact, did you know that you are made of matter too? When we talk about the states of matter, we mostly talk about solids, liquids and gases. There are also ones that are less common and they’re called plasma and beam.
When we talk about states of matter, it’s important for you to understand what some of the words mean that are used quite a lot. One of these words is a molecule. Molecules are made up of two or more atoms. Atoms are tiny, tiny particles or building blocks which make up substance. Everything you see or imagine is made up of something. So atoms when put together form molecules, which form cells, which form our organs and our populations and our planets and the galaxies and so on.
Another word to explain is electron. An electron is a tiny piece of electricity which is too small to see even with a microscope.
Solids are objects that keep their own shape and do not flow in a given temperature. Ice is a solid but when it melts it becomes a liquid. Other examples of solids are cars, books and clothes. Solids can be different colors and textures, and they can be turned into different shapes, for example clay. Solids are made up of molecules which group together and don’t move around.
Liquids do not have their own shape but can take the shape of the container they are in and they can flow at a given temperature. Examples of liquids are tea, water and blood. They can be different colors and thickness; for example, custard is a thicker liquid than tea and doesn’t flow as quickly as tea. You can measure a liquid in a cup or a spoon. Liquids are made up of molecules which are further apart than in solids and can move around easily.
Gases are air-like substances that can move around freely or flow to fit a container and they don’t have their own shape. You can put your hand through gases and you won’t feel them. If they get out their container they can spread easily. We are surrounded by different gases in the air we breathe. We can’t put gas into a measuring cup to measure its volume; it has to be worked out using a mathematical formula. Their molecules are spaced apart and jiggle around.
Plasma isn’t found in normal everyday life like solids, liquids and gases are, and they are gases but not quite the same. Plasma is called ionized gas which means that when heated to very high temperatures some of the electrons break away from the core of the atoms (the nuclei) or molecules to join other nuclei which changes the way the atom or molecule is made up and they behave in a different and unpredictable way.
Beam is a state of matter that scientists don’t really understand. The most important thing about beam matter is that the way it is made up is different to solids, liquids, gas and plasma. Their particles act in a meaningless way whereas in the beam state the particles act together to achieve the same end. There is also no exchange of heat energy involved as with solids, liquids, gas and plasma.
Now there’s all you need to know about matter. You could impress your science teacher with your new knowledge!
Test your knowledge of this subject using our activity sheet for use in class or at home: Questions about States of Matter (all answers found on this page)