Matter & Energy

Matter is composed of atoms or groups of atoms called molecules. The arrangement of particles in a material depends on the physical state of the substance. In a solid, particles form a compact structure that resists flow. Particles in a liquid have more energy than those in a solid. They can flow past one another, but they remain close. Particles in a gas have the most energy. They move rapidly and are separated from one another by relatively large distances.


Glass, an amorphous substance made primarily of silica fused at high temperatures with borates or phosphates. Glass is also found in nature, as the volcanic material obsidian and as the enigmatic objects known as tektites. It is neither a solid nor a liquid but exists in a vitreous, or glassy, state in which molecular units have disordered arrangement but sufficient cohesion to produce mechanical rigidity. Glass is cooled to a rigid state without the occurrence of crystallization; heat can reconvert glass to a liquid form. Usually transparent, glass can also be translucent or opaque. Color varies with the ingredients of the batch.

The basic ingredient of glass compositions is silica, derived from sand, flint, or quartz.

Silica can be melted at very high temperatures to form fused silica glass. Because this glass has a high melting point and does not shrink or expand greatly with changing temperatures, it is suitable for laboratory apparatus and for such objects subject to heat shock as telescope mirrors. Glass is a poor conductor of both heat and electricity and therefore useful for electrical and thermal insulation. For most glass, silica is combined with other raw materials in various proportions. Alkali fluxes, commonly the carbonates of sodium or potassium, lower the fusion temperature and viscosity of silica. Limestone or dolomite (calcium and magnesium carbonates) act as stabilizers for the batch. Other ingredients such as lead and borax give to glass certain physical properties.