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How many states of matter exist?

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Quick Answer

Matter exists in three states: solid, liquid and gas. Although they share the name of matter, these states have vastly different physical and chemical properties that set them apart. All three types of matter contain thousands of microscopic particles, which are similar in shape and size, but exhibit different characteristics.

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Particles found in gases are spread far apart, and have erratic, unpredictable patterns of movement. These particles are excitable and zip around their enclosed spaces, moving from one point to the next in a matter of nanoseconds. The activity of these particles resembles kernels of corn popping in a bag, although gaseous particles never change shape.

The microscopic particles found in liquids lie closer together, and occur in greater quantities. The layout of these particles in a liquid cell is the equivalent of an urban setting on earth: there are small spaces between the particles (like front and back yards) and particles are nearly uniform in size, shape and structure, as are urban developments.

The particles that comprise solids are tight and compact; there is little room for particle movement in given areas, and these particles, unlike those found in gases and some liquids, have low levels of energy and are hardly excitable.

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