In physics, a state of matter is one of the distinct forms that matter takes on. Four states of matter are observable in everyday life, solid, liquid, gas, some other states are believed to be possible but remain theoretical for now. For a complete list of all states of matter, see the list of states of matter. Historically, the distinction is based on qualitative differences in properties. Matter in the state maintains a fixed volume and shape, with component particles close together. Matter in the state maintains a fixed volume, but has a variable shape that adapts to fit its container. Its particles are close together but move freely. Matter in the state has both variable volume and shape, adapting both to fit its container. Its particles are close together nor fixed in place. Matter in the state has variable volume and shape, but as well as neutral atoms, it contains a significant number of ions and electrons. Plasma is the most common form of matter in the universe. The term phase is used as a synonym for state of matter. In a solid the particles are packed together. The forces between particles are strong so that the particles move freely but can only vibrate. As a result, a solid has a stable, definite shape, solids can only change their shape by force, as when broken or cut. In crystalline solids, the particles are packed in a regularly ordered, there are various different crystal structures, and the same substance can have more than one structure. For example, iron has a cubic structure at temperatures below 912 °C. Ice has fifteen known crystal structures, or fifteen solid phases, glasses and other non-crystalline, amorphous solids without long-range order are not thermal equilibrium ground states, therefore they are described below as nonclassical states of matter
The four fundamental states of matter. Clockwise from top left, they are solid, liquid, plasma, and gas, represented by an ice sculpture, a drop of water, electrical arcing from a tesla coil, and the air around clouds, respectively.
A crystalline solid: atomic resolution image of strontium titanate. Brighter atoms are Sr and darker ones are Ti.
In a plasma, electrons are ripped away from their nuclei, forming an electron "sea". This gives it the ability to conduct electricity.