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.


Smog, mixture of solid and liquid fog and smoke particles formed when humidity is high and the air so calm that smoke and fumes accumulate near their source. Smog reduces natural visibility and often irritates the eyes and respiratory tract. In dense urban areas, the death rate usually goes up considerably during prolonged periods of smog, particularly when a process of heat inversion creates a smog-trapping ceiling over a city.

Smog prevention requires control of smoke from furnaces; reduction of fumes from metal-working and other industrial plants; and control of noxious emissions from automobiles, trucks, and incinerators. In the U.S. internal-combustion engines are regarded as the largest contributors to the smog problem, emitting large amounts of contaminants, including unburned hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen. The number of undesirable components in smog, however, is considerable, and the proportions highly variable. They include ozone, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen cyanide, and hydrocarbons and their products formed by partial oxidation. Fuel obtained from fractionation of coal and petroleum produces sulfur dioxide, which is oxidized by atmospheric oxygen, forming sulfur trioxide. Sulfur trioxide is in turn hydrated by the water vapor in the atmosphere to form sulfuric acid.

The so-called photochemical smog, which irritates sensitive membranes and damages plants, is formed when nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere undergo reactions with the hydrocarbons energized by ultraviolet and other radiations from the sun. See Air Pollution.