States of the Material

What are the states of matter?

The states of matter are the various forms in which matter occurs in the universe. They are also known as aggregation states of matter, since particles aggregate or clump together in different ways in each state.

It can be considered that there are four fundamental states of matter, taking into account those forms of aggregation that occur under natural conditions. The fundamental states of matter are:

  • Solid state.
  • Liquid state.
  • gaseous state
  • plasma state.

States of the material

In the detail of the image, we observe how the particles are grouped.

However, studies on the aggregation states of matter have been extended nowadays. In addition to those that occur naturally, today those that occur in extreme conditions, induced in the laboratory, are being studied. Of this group, scientists have verified the existence of three new states: the Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC); the Fermi condensate and the supersolid.

The characteristics of the states of matter depend on the force of attraction between the particles and their mobility. Temperature and/or pressure are the factors that affect how these particles clump together and how they interact with each other.

When there are sensible alterations in the temperature and/or pressure variables, there are changes from one state of matter to another. These changes are solidification, vaporization, melting, sublimation, reverse sublimation, ionization, and deionization.

Here is a comparative table with the main differences between the fundamental states of matter:



subject type fixed matter fluids with viscosity gases hot gases
(with electric charge)
between particles
high Intermediate Short Short
of particles
Short Intermediate high high
Volume with volume with volume without volume without volume
Form defined indefinite indefinite indefinite
Example stones Water Water steam plasma tv

Solid state

The solid state is one that we perceive as fixed matter, which resists changes in shape and volume. In matter in a solid state, the particles have a greater attraction between them, which reduces their movement and the possibilities of interaction. For example: rocks, wood, metal utensils, glass, ice and graphite, among others.

The solid state characteristics are:

  • The attractive force between the individual particles is greater than the energy that causes separation.
  • The particles are locked in their position limiting their vibrational energy.
  • It maintains its shape and volume.
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States of the material

Liquid state

The liquid state corresponds to fluids whose volume is constant, but adapts to the shape of its container. For example: water, soft drinks, oil and saliva.

The characteristics of the liquid state are:

  • The particles are attracted to each other, but the distance is greater than in solids.
  • Particles are more dynamic than solids, but more stable than gases.
  • It has a constant volume.
  • Its shape is indefinite. Therefore, the liquid takes the shape of its container.

States of the material

gaseous state

The gaseous state corresponds to gases. Technically it is defined as the grouping of particles with little attraction for each other that, when colliding with each other, expand in space. For example: water vapor, oxygen (Otwo) and natural gas.

The characteristics of the gaseous state are:

  • It concentrates fewer particles than solids and liquids.
  • The particles have little attraction for each other.
  • Particles are in expansion, which is why they are more dynamic than solids and gases.
  • It has no definite shape or volume.

States of the material

plasma state

The plasmatic state is a state similar to the gaseous one, but it has electrically charged particles, that is, ionized. It is, therefore, hot gases.

Matter in the plasmatic state is very common in outer space and constitutes, in fact, 99% of its observable matter. However, the plasmatic state also reproduces naturally in some terrestrial phenomena. Likewise, it can be produced artificially for various uses.

For example, there is plasma in the sun, stars, and nebulae. It is also present in the polar auroras, in lightning and in the so-called St. Elmo’s Fire. Regarding its artificial production, some examples are plasma televisions, fluorescent tubes and plasma lamps.

The characteristics of the plasmatic state are:

  • It lacks definite shape and volume.
  • Its particles are ionized.
  • It lacks electromagnetic balance.
  • It is a good electrical conductor.
  • It forms filaments, layers, and rays when exposed to a magnetic field.

States of the material

It may interest you:

  • Solid state
  • Liquid state
  • gaseous state
  • plasma state

Changes in the states of the matter

Changes of states of matter are processes that allow the spatial structure of matter to change from one state to another. They depend on variations in environmental conditions such as temperature and/or pressure.

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Taking into account the fundamental states of matter, the changes of state of matter are: solidification, vaporization, fusion, sublimation, reverse sublimation, ionization, and deionization.

States of the material

Fusion or melting. It is the change from the solid state to the liquid state. It occurs when the solid is exposed to higher temperatures than usual, until it melts. It occurs because the high temperatures to which the solid is subjected causes the particles to separate more and move more easily.

Solidification. Solidification is the change from the liquid state to the solid state. When the temperature of a liquid drops, the particles begin to move closer to each other and the movement between them is reduced. Upon reaching the freezing point, they become solid matter.

Vaporization. Vaporization is the change from the liquid state to the gaseous state. It occurs when the temperature rises appreciably, which breaks the interaction between the particles. This causes their separation and increased movement, giving rise to a gas.

Condensation. Condensation is the change from the gaseous state to the liquid state. By lowering the temperature and/or increasing the pressure, the gas particles lose some mobility and approach each other. This approximation explains the transition from gas to liquid.

Sublimation. Sublimation is the change from the solid state to the gaseous state without going through the liquid state. It occurs, for example, in naphthalene spheres. These spheres that are used to keep moths away from closets have the property of fading on their own over time. This means that they go from the solid to the gaseous state without going through the liquid state.

Reverse sublimation. Reverse sublimation, regressive sublimation, deposition or crystallization is called the change from the gaseous state to the solid state directly.

Ionization. Ionization is the change from gas to plasma, which occurs when gas particles become electrically charged, which is possible when a gas is heated.

Deionization. Deionization consists of the transition from the plasmatic state to the gaseous state. It is, therefore, the opposite process to ionization.

Next, we present a table that summarizes the changes of matter and gives an example for each one.

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Process Status change Example
Fusion solid to liquid Thaws.


liquid to solid Ice.
Vaporization liquid to gas Water steam.
Condensation gas to liquid Rain.
Sublimation solid to gas Dry ice.
reverse sublimation gaseous to solid Snow.
ionization gaseous to plasmatic Neon signs.
deionization Plasma to gas. The smoke that results
put out a flame

It may interest you:

  • Changes of state of matter
  • Evaporation
  • Boiling

new states of matter

Currently, scientific research has found new states of aggregation of matter through artificial procedures. The best known are based on temperature, and are the Bose-Einstein condensate, the fermionic condensate, and the supersolid state.

However, other theories about possible states of matter continue to be studied, such as the Rydberg molecule, the Quantum Hall state, photonic matter, and the dropleton.

Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC)

The state known as Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC) is produced when certain gases are subjected to temperatures close to absolute zero (-273.15°C), reaching such a density and freezing point that the atoms cannot be separated. move.

It is a state of matter that was artificially achieved in 1995. Since then, it has also been known as the fifth state of matter.

An example of the BEC are materials with superconductivity, that is, they can transmit electricity without exerting any resistance and without losing energy.

The characteristics of the condensed state of Bose-Einstein are:

  • Its particles are bosons.
  • It is observable only at the subatomic level.
  • It presents superconductivity (zero electrical resistance).
  • Its minimum energy state is known as the ground state.

Dig Deeper: Bose-Einstein Consensus State

Count of Fermi

The Fermi condensate or fermionic condensate is one where the matter is superfluid, that is, it does not have any degree of viscosity. The behavior of the fermionic state is similar to a wave rather than a particle. It is related to the Bose-Einstein state.

The characteristics of the fermionic condensate are:

  • Its particles are fermions (and not bosons).
  • It occurs at temperatures close to absolute zero.
  • Its stability lasts a very short time.


The supersolid is a state in which matter is ordered in space with the properties of a superfluid. Only in 2017 was clear evidence of its existence found. It is still under investigation, as are other hypothetical states.

See also:

  • properties of matter
  • Intensive and extensive properties of matter