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what state of matter is lightning

what state of matter is lightning

what state of matter is lightning

Hi there. In this post on Solsarin we’ll find what state of matter is lightning . Thanks for being with us. Let’s find the answer together.

States of Matter

A state of matter is one of the distinct forms that different phases of matter take on. Four states of matter are observable in everyday life: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. Many other states are known such as Bose–Einstein condensates and neutron-degenerate matter but these only occur in extreme situations such as ultra cold or ultra dense matter. Other states, such as quark–gluon plasmas, are believed to be possible but remain theoretical for now.

Historically, the distinction is made based on qualitative differences in properties. Matter in the solid state maintains a fixed volume and shape, with component particles (atoms, molecules or ions) close together and fixed into place. Matter in the liquid state maintains a fixed volume, but has a variable shape that adapts to fit its container. Its particles are still close together but move freely.

Matter in the gaseous state has both variable volume and shape, adapting both to fit its container. Its particles are neither close together nor fixed in place. Matter in the plasma state has variable volume and shape, but as well as neutral atoms, it contains a significant number of ions and electrons, both of which can move around freely. Plasma is the most common form of visible matter in the universe.

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.

what state of matter is lightning
Solids: Table, Wall, Chair, Desk, etc. Liquids: Water, Mountain Dew, Coke. Gases: Carbon Dioxide, Methane, Propane, Natural Gas. Plasma: Lightning, Stars, Comet Tails, Fireballs made by Nuclear Weapons.

The four fundamental states


In a solid, the particles (ions, atoms or molecules) are closely packed together. The forces between particles are strong so that the particles cannot move freely but can only vibrate. As a result, a solid has a stable, definite shape, and a definite volume. Solids can only change their shape by force, as when broken or cut.

In crystalline solids, the particles (atoms, molecules, or ions) are packed in a regularly ordered, repeating pattern. There are various different crystal structures, and the same substance can have more than one structure (or solid phase).

For example, iron has a body-centered cubic structure at temperatures below 912 °C, and a face-centered cubic structure between 912 and 1394 °C. Ice has fifteen known crystal structures, or fifteen solid phases, which exist at various temperatures and pressures.

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.

Solids can be transformed into liquids by melting and can also change directly into gases through the process of sublimation.



Structure of a classical single atom liquid. Atoms have many nearest neighbors in contact, yet no long-range order is present.

A liquid is a nearly incompressible fluid that conforms to the shape of its container but retains a (nearly) constant volume independent of pressure. The volume is definite if the temperature and pressure are constant. When a solid is heated above its melting point, it becomes liquid, given that the pressure is higher than the triple point of the substance.

Intermolecular (or interatomic or interionic) forces are still important, but the molecules have enough energy to move relative to each other and the structure is mobile. This means that the shape of a liquid is not definite but is determined by its container. The volume is usually greater than that of the corresponding solid, the best known exception being water, H2O. The highest temperature at which a given liquid can exist is its critical temperature.

what state of matter is lightning
what state of matter is lightning


The spaces between gas molecules are very big. Gas molecules have very weak or no bonds at all. The molecules in “gas” can move freely and fast.

Main article: Gas

A gas is a compressible fluid. Not only will a gas conform to the shape of its container but it will also expand to fill the container.

In a gas, the molecules have enough kinetic energy so that the effect of intermolecular forces is small (or zero for an ideal gas), and the typical distance between neighboring molecules is much greater than the molecular size. A gas has no definite shape or volume, but occupies the entire container in which it is confined.

A liquid may be converted to a gas by heating at constant pressure to the boiling point, or else by reducing the pressure at constant temperature.

At temperatures below its critical temperature, a gas is also called a vapor, and can be liquefied by compression alone without cooling. A vapor can exist in equilibrium with a liquid (or solid), in which case the gas pressure equals the vapor pressure of the liquid (or solid).

A supercritical fluid (SCF) is a gas whose temperature and pressure are above the critical temperature and critical pressure respectively. In this state, the distinction between liquid and gas disappears. A supercritical fluid has the physical properties of a gas, but its high density confers solvent properties in some cases, which leads to useful applications. For example, supercritical carbon dioxide is used to extract caffeine in the manufacture of decaffeinated coffee.


In a plasma, electrons are ripped away from their nuclei, forming an electron “sea”. This gives it the ability to conduct electricity.

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Stars Lightning. Neon lights Plasma TV.
Main article: Plasma (physics)

Like a gas, plasma does not have definite shape or volume. Unlike gases, plasmas are electrically conductive, produce magnetic fields and electric currents, and respond strongly to electromagnetic forces. Positively charged nuclei swim in a “sea” of freely-moving disassociated electrons, similar to the way such charges exist in conductive metal. In fact it is this electron “sea” that allows matter in the plasma state to conduct electricity.

The plasma state is often misunderstood, but it is actually quite common on Earth, and the majority of people observe it on a regular basis without even realizing it. Lightning, electric sparks, fluorescent lights, neon lights, plasma televisions, some types of flame and the stars are all examples of illuminated matter in the plasma state.

A gas is usually converted to a plasma in one of two ways, either from a huge voltage difference between two points, or by exposing it to extremely high temperatures.

Heating matter to high temperatures causes electrons to leave the atoms, resulting in the presence of free electrons. At very high temperatures, such as those present in stars, it is assumed that essentially all electrons are “free”, and that a very high-energy plasma is essentially bare nuclei swimming in a sea of electrons.

A plasma is created when one or more electrons are torn free from an atom. An ionized atom can be missing a few electrons (or even just one), or it can be stripped of electrons entirely leaving behind an atomic nucleus (of one or more protons and usually some neutrons).

Atoms that are missing electrons are called “ions”. Ions have a positive electrical charge because they have more positively charged protons than negatively charged electrons. A plasma is generally a mix of these positively charged ions and negatively charged electrons.

Most plasmas are created when extra energy is added to a gas, knocking electrons free from atoms. High temperatures often cause plasmas to form. Atoms in a hot gas are moving so fast that when they collide with each other they sometimes knock electrons loose. High energy photons, from gamma rays or X-rays or ultraviolet radiation, can also create a plasma by knocking electrons away from their atoms. High-voltage electricity can also create plasmas.

Plasmas sometimes are created by humans. Some types of electrical lights contain plasmas. Electricity in fluorescent lights creates a plasma. Colorful neon lights, often used in signs, also use electricity to convert a gas into glowing plasma. Certain types of flat-screen televisions make use of plasma as well.

what state of matter is lightning
what state of matter is lightning

Plasmas in nature

Plasmas are also common in nature. In fact, plasma is the most common state of “ordinary” matter (that is, all matter other than the mysterious “dark matter” that astronomers have been puzzling over in recent years) in the universe. Far more matter is in the plasma state than in the liquid, solid, or gaseous states.

Lightning strikes create plasma via a very strong jolt of electricity. Most of the Sun, and other stars, is in a plasma state. Certain regions of Earth’s atmosphere contain some plasma created primarily by ultraviolet radiation from the Sun. Collectively, these regions are called the ionosphere.

The extreme upper layers of Earth’s atmosphere, the thermosphere and exosphere. (and to a lesser extent the mesosphere), also contain a fair amount of plasma mixed in with gas atoms and molecules. Above the atmosphere, Earth is surrounded by a magnetic “bubble” called the magnetosphere. Most of the particles in the magnetosphere are ionized plasma.

Electric and magnetic fields often channel the flow of charged plasma particles. Plasma in Earth’s magnetosphere sometimes flows along Earth’s magnetic field towards the polar regions, creating the colorful light shows in the sky which we call the aurora or Southern and Northern Lights.

These beautiful displays occur when energetic plasma particles collide with gases in the atmosphere, causing them to glow in much the same way that fluorescent and neon lights shine. Prominences, giant loops of glowing matter suspended above the Sun, are another example of beautiful natural light shows created by plasmas.


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