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Introduction to the states of matter

There are three basic states of matter: solid, liquid and gas.

The state of a given material depends on two factors:

  • The strength of attractive intermolecular forces between the particles. These forces depend on the type of the material.
  • The kinetic energy (in the form of particle movements) of the material. If a particle is moving quickly (at high temperature), the kinetic energy of the particle is high.

Recall that the kinetic energy of an object is the energy it has due to its motion.

In a solid, the energy is too weak to overcome the intermolecular forces. The particles are tightly packed and vibrate about fixed points.

In a liquid, the speed of the particles is higher. The particles have enough energy to break away from fixed positions but are held closely together by intermolecular forces. The particles can move past one another.

In a gas, the particles have enough energy to overcome the intermolecular forces. The particles are spaced far apart and can move independently.