Chemistry » Liquids and Solids » The Solid State of Matter

The Solid State of Matter

The Solid State of Matter

When most liquids are cooled, they eventually freeze and form crystalline solids, solids in which the atoms, ions, or molecules are arranged in a definite repeating pattern. It is also possible for a liquid to freeze before its molecules become arranged in an orderly pattern. The resulting materials are called amorphous solids or noncrystalline solids (or, sometimes, glasses). The particles of such solids lack an ordered internal structure and are randomly arranged (see the figure below).

Two images are shown and labeled, from left to right, “Crystalline” and “Amorphous.” The crystalline diagram shows many circles drawn in rows and stacked together tightly. The amorphous diagram shows many circles spread slightly apart and in no organized pattern.

The entities of a solid phase may be arranged in a regular, repeating pattern (crystalline solids) or randomly (amorphous).

Metals and ionic compounds typically form ordered, crystalline solids. Substances that consist of large molecules, or a mixture of molecules whose movements are more restricted, often form amorphous solids. For examples, candle waxes are amorphous solids composed of large hydrocarbon molecules.

Some substances, such as silicon dioxide (shown in the figure below), can form either crystalline or amorphous solids, depending on the conditions under which it is produced. Also, amorphous solids may undergo a transition to the crystalline state under appropriate conditions.

Two sets of molecules are shown. The first set of molecules contains five identical, hexagonal rings composed of alternating red and maroon spheres single bonded together and with a red spheres extending outward from each maroon sphere. The second set of molecules shows four rings with twelve sides each that are joined together. Each ring is composed of alternating red and maroon spheres single bonded together and with a red spheres extending outward from each maroon sphere.

(a) Silicon dioxide, SiO2, is abundant in nature as one of several crystalline forms of the mineral quartz. (b) Rapid cooling of molten SiO2 yields an amorphous solid known as “fused silica”.

Crystalline solids are generally classified according the nature of the forces that hold its particles together. These forces are primarily responsible for the physical properties exhibited by the bulk solids. The following sections provide descriptions of the major types of crystalline solids: ionic, metallic, covalent network, and molecular.

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