The three states of matter


  • The three states of matter are solid, liquid and gas. Melting and freezing take place at the melting point, boiling and condensing take place at the boiling point.

The three states of matter can be represented by a simple model. In this model, particles are represented by small solid spheres. Particle theory can help to explain melting, boiling, freezing and condensing.

The amount of energy needed to change state from solid to liquid and from liquid to gas depends on the strength of the forces between the particles of the substance. The nature of the particles involved depends on the type of bonding and the structure of the substance. The stronger the forces between the particles the higher the melting point and boiling point of the substance.

(HT only) Limitations of the simple model above include that in the model there are no forces, that all particles are represented as spheres and that the spheres are solid.

Students should be able to:

  • predict the states of substances at different temperatures given appropriate data
  • explain the different temperatures at which changes of state occur in terms of energy transfers and types of bonding
  • recognise that atoms themselves do not have the bulk properties of materials
  • (HT only) explain the limitations of the particle theory in relation to changes of state when particles are represented by solid inelastic spheres which have no forces between them.

WS 1.2 Use a variety of models such as representational, spatial, descriptive, computational and mathematical to solve problems, make predictions and to develop scientific explanations and understanding of familiar and unfamiliar facts.

MS 5b - Visualise and represent 2D and 3D forms including two dimensional representations of 3D objects