Phases and Classification of Matter

A beaker labeled solid contains a cube of red matter and says has fixed shape and volume. A beaker labeled liquid contains a brownish-red colored liquid. This beaker says takes shape of container, forms horizontal surfaces, has fixed volume. The beaker labeled gas is filled with a light brown gas. This beaker says expands to fill container.
The three most common states or phases of matter are solid, liquid, and gas. Source: OpenStax Chemistry 2e

OpenStax Chemistry 2e

Matter is defined as anything that occupies space and has mass, and it is all around us. Solids and liquids are more obviously matter: We can see that they take up space, and their weight tells us that they have mass. Gases are also matter; if gases did not take up space, a balloon would not inflate (increase its volume) when filled with gas.

Solids, liquids, and gases are the three states of matter commonly found on earth. A solid is rigid and possesses a definite shape. A liquid flows and takes the shape of its container, except that it forms a flat or slightly curved upper surface when acted upon by gravity. (In zero gravity, liquids assume a spherical shape.) Both liquid and solid samples have volumes that are very nearly independent of pressure. A gas takes both the shape and volume of its container.

A fourth state of matter, plasma, occurs naturally in the interiors of stars. A plasma is a gaseous state of matter that contains appreciable numbers of electrically charged particles. The presence of these charged particles imparts unique properties to plasmas that justify their classification as a state of matter distinct from gases. In addition to stars, plasmas are found in some other high-temperature environments (both natural and man-made), such as lightning strikes, certain television screens, and specialized analytical instruments used to detect trace amounts of metals.

A cutting torch is being used to cut a piece of metal. Bright, white colored plasma can be seen near the tip of the torch, where it is contacting the metal.
A plasma torch can be used to cut metal. (credit: “Hypertherm”/Wikimedia Commons)

Some samples of matter appear to have properties of solids, liquids, and/or gases at the same time. This can occur when the sample is composed of many small pieces. For example, we can pour sand as if it were a liquid because it is composed of many small grains of solid sand. Matter can also have properties of more than one state when it is a mixture, such as with clouds. Clouds appear to behave somewhat like gases, but they are actually mixtures of air (gas) and tiny particles of water (liquid or solid).

The mass of an object is a measure of the amount of matter in it. One way to measure an object’s mass is to measure the force it takes to accelerate the object. It takes much more force to accelerate a car than a bicycle because the car has much more mass. A more common way to determine the mass of an object is to use a balance to compare its mass with a standard mass.

Although weight is related to mass, it is not the same thing. Weight refers to the force that gravity exerts on an object. This force is directly proportional to the mass of the object. The weight of an object changes as the force of gravity changes, but its mass does not. An astronaut’s mass does not change just because she goes to the moon. But her weight on the moon is only one-sixth her earth-bound weight because the moon’s gravity is only one-sixth that of the earth’s. She may feel “weightless” during her trip when she experiences negligible external forces (gravitational or any other), although she is, of course, never “massless.”

The law of conservation of matter summarizes many scientific observations about matter: It states that there is no detectable change in the total quantity of matter present when matter converts from one type to another (a chemical change) or changes among solid, liquid, or gaseous states (a physical change). Brewing beer and the operation of batteries provide examples of the conservation of matter. During the brewing of beer, the ingredients (water, yeast, grains, malt, hops, and sugar) are converted into beer (water, alcohol, carbonation, and flavoring substances) with no actual loss of substance. This is most clearly seen during the bottling process, when glucose turns into ethanol and carbon dioxide, and the total mass of the substances does not change. This can also be seen in a lead-acid car battery: The original substances (lead, lead oxide, and sulfuric acid), which are capable of producing electricity, are changed into other substances (lead sulfate and water) that do not produce electricity, with no change in the actual amount of matter.

Diagram A shows a beer bottle containing pre-beer and sugar. An arrow points from this bottle to a second bottle. This second bottle contains the same volume of liquid, however, the sugar has been converted into ethanol and carbonation as beer was made. Diagram B shows a car battery that contains sheets of P B and P B O subscript 2 along with H subscript 2 S O subscript 4. After the battery is used, it contains an equal mass of P B S O subscript 4 and H subscript 2 O.
(a) The mass of beer precursor materials is the same as the mass of beer produced: Sugar has become alcohol and carbon dioxide. (b) The mass of the lead, lead oxide, and sulfuric acid consumed by the production of electricity is exactly equal to the mass of lead sulfate and water that is formed. Source: OpenStax Chemistry 2e

Although this conservation law holds true for all conversions of matter, convincing examples are few and far between because, outside of the controlled conditions in a laboratory, we seldom collect all of the material that is produced during a particular conversion. For example, when you eat, digest, and assimilate food, all of the matter in the original food is preserved. But because some of the matter is incorporated into your body, and much is excreted as various types of waste, it is challenging to verify by measurement.

Source:

Flowers, P., Theopold, K., Langley, R., & Robinson, W. R. (2019, February 14). Chemistry 2e. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/books/chemistry-2e


Advertisements

Advertisements

Keywords: three phases of matter, three states of matter, what are the phases of matter, what are the states of matter, what is solid, what is liquid, what is gas, what is plasma, define solid, define liquid, define gas, define plasma

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.