Describe the three states of matter
Key PointsMatter can exist in one of three main states: solid, liquid, or gas. Solid matter is composed of tightly packed particles. A solid will retain its shape; the particles are not free to move around. Liquid matter is made of more loosely packed particles. It will take the shape of its container. Particles can move about within a liquid, but they are packed densely enough that volume is maintained. Gaseous matter is composed of particles packed so loosely that it has neither a defined shape nor a defined volume. A gas can be compressed.
The three states of matter are the three distinct physical forms that matter can take in most environments: solid, liquid, and gas. In extreme environments, other states may be present, such as plasma, Bose-Einstein condensates, and neutron stars. Further states, such as quark-gluon plasma, are also believed to be possible. Much of the atomic matter of the universe is hot plasma in the form of rarefied interstellar medium and dense stars.
Historically, the states of matter were distinguished based on qualitative differences in their bulk properties. Solid is the state in which matter maintains a fixed volume and shape; liquid is the state in which matter adapts to the shape of its container but varies only slightly in volume; and gas is the state in which matter expands to occupy the volume and shape of its container. Each of these three classical states of matter can transition directly into either of the other two classical states.