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Classification of Matter

Anything that has mass and volume is matter. Matter is also defined as anything with the property of inertia. All of the solids, liquids and gases that you may encounter in your daily life would be classified as some type of matter. You are familiar with the taxonomy of living things from Biology. Let us study how scientists classify matter that makes up everything.

Anything with mass and volume

Matter with constant composition

Matter with variable composition

Substance made up of only one type of atom
Two or more elements that are chemically combined
Heterogeneous Mixture
Mixtures that are made up of more than one phase
Homogeneous Mixtures
Also called solutions. Mixtures that are made up of only one phase
Examples -  gold, silver, carbon, oxygen and hydrogen Examples - water, carbon dioxide, sodium bicarbonate, carbon monoxide Examples -  sand, soil, chicken soup, pizza, chocolate chip cookies Examples - salt water, pure air, metal alloys, seltzer water




A substance is a material with a constant composition. This means that the substance is the same no matter where it is found. NaCl, H2O, Ne, CO2, and O2 are all substances, because their composition will be the same no matter where you find them. All elements and all compounds are defined as substances.



Elements are substances that are made up of only one type of atom. At this time, there are 113 known elements, most of which are metals. The symbols shown on the periodic table represent the known elements. Even atoms are made up of smaller particles, but they are not broken down by ordinary chemical means.



Compounds are substances that are made up of more than one type of atom. Water, for example, is made up of hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Carbon dioxide is made up of carbon and oxygen atoms. Table salt is made up of sodium and chlorine. Compounds differ from mixtures in that they are chemically combined. Unlike elements, compounds can be decomposed, or broken down by simple chemical reactions.



A phase is any region of a material that has its own set of properties. In a chocolate chip cookie the dough and the chips have different properties. Therefore they represent separate phases. Pure gold, which is an element, would only contain one phase. Italian dressing would clearly represent several phases, while a solution of salt water may only contain one phase.


Homogeneous Materials

Any material that contains only one phase would be considered homogeneous. Elements like hydrogen, compounds like sugar, and solutions like salt water, are all considered homogeneous because they are uniform. Each region of a sample is identical to all other regions of the same sample.



Mixtures are made up of two or more substances that are physically combined. The specific composition will vary from sample to sample. Some mixtures are so well blended that they are considered homogeneous, being made up of only one phase. Other mixtures, containing more than one phase, are called heterogeneous.



Solutions are a special type of homogeneous material, because unlike compounds, the parts of a solution are physically, not chemically, combined. When you mix a glass of salt water, the salt does not chemically react with the water. The two parts just mix so well that the resultant solution is said to be uniform. Ice tea, coffee, metal alloys, and the air we breathe are some examples of solutions. Solutions are made up of two parts: The solute, which gets dissolved, and the solvent, which does the dissolving. In the case of salt water, salt is the solute and water is the solvent.


Heterogeneous mixtures

Heterogeneous mixtures are made up of more than one phase and they can be separated physically. The aforementioned chocolate chip cookie, a tossed salad, sand, and a bowl of raisin bran cereal are all examples of obvious heterogeneous mixtures.


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