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Why do solids maintain a definite shape and volume?

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Quick Answer

Solids maintain a definite shape and volume because their atoms are tightly bound to each other. Solids can be crystalline or amorphous. In crystalline solids, such as ice and metal, atoms are arranged in a regular geometric lattice. In amorphous solids, such as wax and many plastics, the arrangement is irregular.

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Full Answer

Most substances have a solid form, a liquid form and a gaseous form. Transition from one form to another occurs at a certain temperature and pressure specific to each substance. Liquid water crystallizes into solid ice at its freezing point, and it vaporizes into gas at its boiling point. The state of matter depends upon the energy level of its atoms. The molecules of ice are at a low energy level. Adding heat raises that level, causing the crystalline structure to break down until solid ice becomes liquid water. With more heat, molecular motion increases to the point where the water cannot maintain its liquid state and becomes steam. Even metals can exist in a liquid or a gaseous state, though the energy required to cause these changes is enormous. Iron, for example, melts at a temperature of 2,795 degrees Fahrenheit and vaporizes at a temperature of 4,982 degrees Fahrenheit.

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