This is a list of the different states of matter, including the more exotic ones.
Additional recommended knowledge
Generally states of matter are distinguished by the pressure and temperature, transforming into other phases as conditions change to favor existence of the other form, an example is melting and its complement freezing.
The list is ordered roughly in terms of increasing energy density.
- Low-energy states:
- Quantum Hall state: A state that gives rise to quantized Hall voltage measured in the direction perpendicular to the current flow.
- Quantum spin Hall state: a theoretical phase that may pave the way for the development of electronic devices that dissipate less energy and generate less heat. This is a derivation of the Quantum Hall state of matter.
- Bose-Einstein condensate: a phase in which a large number of bosons all inhabit the same quantum state, in effect becoming one single wave/particle.
- Fermionic condensate: Similar to the Bose-Einstein condensate but composed of fermions. The Pauli exclusion principle prevents fermions from entering the same quantum state, but by pairing up two fermions can behave as a boson and the pairs can then enter the same quantum state without restrictions.
- Superfluid: A phase achieved by a few cryogenic liquids at extreme temperature where they become able to flow without friction. A superfluid can flow up the side of an open container and down the outside. Placing a superfluid in a spinning container will result in quantized vortices.
- Supersolid: similar to a superfluid, a supersolid is able to move without friction but retains a rigid shape.
- Solid: A solid holds a rigid shape without a container.
- Amorphous solid: A solid in which there is no long-range order of the positions of the atoms.
- Crystalline solid: A solid in which the constituent atoms, molecules, or ions are packed in a regularly ordered, repeating pattern.
- Plastic crystal: A molecular solid with long-range positional order but with constituent molecules retaining rotational freedom.
- String-net liquid: Atoms in this state have apparently unstable arrangement, like a liquid, but are still consistent in overall pattern, like a solid.
- Liquid: A mostly non-compressible fluid. Able to conform to the shape of its container but retaining a (nearly) constant volume independent of pressure.
- Liquid crystal: Properties intermediate between liquids and crystals. Generally, able to flow like a liquid but exhibiting long-range order.
- Gas: A compressible fluid. Not only will a gas conform to the shape of its container but it will expand to fill the container.
- Supercritical fluid: At sufficiently high temperatures and pressures the distinction between liquid and gas disappears.
- Colloid: A dispersion of a substance in another substance, where both are in any of the solid, liquid or gaseous phases. The properties of the containing substance will tend to predominate. However, a colloid is not a true state of matter as it is a mixture (ie. no fixed chemical formula).
- Plasma: free charged particles, usually in equal numbers, such as ions and electrons. Unlikes gases, plasmas may self-generate magnetic fields and electric currents, and responds strongly and collectively to electromagnetic forces.
- Degenerate matter: matter under very high pressure, supported by the Pauli exclusion principle.
- Electron-degenerate matter: found in the crust of white dwarf stars. Electrons remain bound to atoms but are able to transfer to adjacent atoms.
- Neutron-degenerate matter: found in neutron stars. Vast gravitational pressure compresses atoms so hard the electrons are forced to combine with protons via inverse beta-decay, resulting in a superdense conglomeration of neutrons. (Normally free neutrons outside an atomic nucleus will decay with a half life of just under 15 minutes, but in a neutron star, as in the nucleus of an atom, other effects stabilize the neutrons.)
- Strange matter: Also known as quark matter, it may exist inside some particularly large neutron stars.
- Very high energy states:
- Quark-gluon plasma: A phase in which quarks become free and able to move independently (rather than being perpetually bound into particles) in a sea of gluons (subatomic particles that transmit the strong force that binds quarks together). May be briefly attainable in particle accelerators.
- Weakly symmetric matter: for up to 10-12 seconds after the Big Bang the strong, weak and electromagnetic forces were unified.
- Strongly symmetric matter: for up to 10-36 seconds after the Big Bang the energy density of the universe was so high that the four forces of nature — strong, weak, electromagnetic, and gravitational — were unified into one single force. As the universe expanded, the temperature and density dropped and the strong force separated, a process called symmetry breaking.
The gravitational singularity predicted by general relativity to exist at the centre of a black hole is not a phase of matter; it is not a material object at all (although the mass-energy of matter contributed to its creation), but rather a region where the known laws of physics have ceased to hold.