Properties of Water & The States of Matter
Did you know that everything around you is made of matter? Matter is the air you breathe, the chair you sit on, the computer you are using, and everything else that you can see and touch. Basically, matter is defined as anything that takes up mass. Matter can be found in three different states, known as the states of matter. So if everything is made of matter, what do you think matter is made up of? Matter is made from things called atoms, and atoms are so small that you can't see them with your eyes, or even with a regular telescope. Just one drop of water is made of millions of atoms. Now that you know what matter is made of, let's talk about the three states of matter; solid, liquid, and gas.
Solid matter is made of atoms that are packed really tightly together. Think of an ice cube that is frozen solid. You can't move anything through it because the atoms are packed together so tight that they will hold their shape. Even though all solids have atoms that are packed tight together, there is still a small space between the atoms. How big or small a space is between the atoms will determine an object's density. For example, a piece of wood will have a lower density than a piece of gold the same size. There is more space between the atoms of the wood than there is between the atoms of the gold.
With liquid matter, the atoms are spaced out a bit more than with solids. Liquids also do not hold their shape at room temperature. Think of water; when cold, it is ice but at room temperature it will melt and become a liquid. Because the atoms are farther apart in liquids, you are able to push the liquids out of the way, kind of like when you go swimming, you push the water out of your way. Liquids are different from solids because they will take the shape of any container that they are placed in.
Gases are different from solids and liquids. They cannot hold their shape and they also can't stay still. Gases are always moving around, and there is so much space between the atoms in gas, that you are able to easily move around them. When you walk from one room to another, you are walking through a bunch of molecules of air. Just like liquids, gases can take the shape of a container and gases will actually fill a space up. Think of a balloon, when it is filled with air, the balloon shape changes.
Changing States of Matter
Did you know that matter can change from one state to another and then back again? Its easy to understand how the states of matter change when using water as an example. Water can change from a solid (ice), to a liquid (water), and to a gas (water vapor, or steam). In order for water to change states, the atoms must change. Remember, in solid matter, atoms are really close together. As water begins to freeze, and change to a solid, the atoms move closer and closer together. Once the water turns to a solid, if it is left at room temperature, the atoms will begin to spread out, and the ice will melt, leaving you with a liquid. If you take that liquid, and heat it up, it will eventually turn to steam. If you have ever watched a pot of water boil on the stove, you will see steam rising from it as it heats up. That is water turning from a liquid to a gas.
Now that you know about the different states of matter, let's talk about properties. All matter has different things about it that are used to describe it scientifically. These things are called properties and they can explain the chemical or physical qualities of matter. Some of the things used to describe matter include its color, odor, state at room temperature, and flexibility. Properties are different for each type of matter and are used by scientists to identify different types of matter.
Check out these pages to learn more about properties and states of matter.
- Virtual Science - Matter
- States of Matter: Facts
- Chem4Kids - States of Matter
- Study Jams - Solids, Liquids, Gases
- Changing States of Matter Activities
- States of Matter Experiments
- States of Matter in the Kitchen
- States of Matter Science
- States of Matter for Kids
- The Case of the Mystery Matter
- States of Matter Webquest
- What is Matter?
- NASA - Phases of Matter
- The Strange Matter Exhibit
Written By: Lynn Taylor