Criteria for Classifying Matter
Date: Fall 2012
What properties do scientists use to help them identify and classify matter?
Thanks for the question. Usually scientists classify matter by its physical state (solid, liquid, or gas), its physical properties, and chemical properties. Physical properties are such things as color, density, and hardness. Chemical properties are how the substance behaves when combined with other elements or compounds.
I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any other questions.
The ways atoms in the matter are composed and connected is perhaps the
most important criterion (solids -- atoms are in close proximity and
cannot readily rearrange; liquids - atoms in close proximity, but can
rearrange; gases - atoms are not in close proximity).
Hope this helps,
There are many properties of substances that scientists use to classify matter, depending upon the substance and upon the intended characterization. In some cases, melting and/or boiling point may be appropriate. In other cases, electrical resistance may be appropriate. In yet other cases, hardness may be appropriate. The proper classification depends upon what property is appropriate for a given classification.
Click here to return to the Material Science Archives
Update: November 2011