A Physics Primer 4: States of Matter

How do atoms, ions, and molecules behave in the three familiar states of matter — solids, liquids, and gases?

In solids, ions and molecules are fixed in place, so that the distance between each molecule and its neighbors does not change much. The molecules are vibrating, however.

In liquids, the molecules are free to move, but they stay in contact with one another, slipping and sliding over each other. This is like a bowl full of round marbles that is constantly being agitated.

in gases, the molecules fly around freely, limited only by gravity and the shape of the container around them1.


  1. Purdue University Department of Chemistry website. States of Matter. To view, click here.

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