Types of Matter


This is part of HSC Chemistry course under the topic of Properties of Matter 

HSC Chemistry Syllabus

  • explore homogeneous mixtures and heterogeneous mixtures through practical investigations:

– using separation techniques based on physical properties (ACSCH026)

calculating percentage composition by weight of component elements and/or compounds (ACSCH007)

    Types of Matter

    This video will discuss what matter is, as well as what the different types of matter are; elements, compounds and mixtures.


    What is Matter? 

    Matter is the essence of the universe, encompassing everything with mass and volume. From the minuscule building blocks of atoms to the vast expanses of space filled with celestial objects, matter is the cornerstone of existence. Its forms and interactions define the physical world around us.

    Matter can be categorised into three primary forms: 

    1. Elements

    • Definition:
      Elements are substances which are made up entirely of one type of atom. They represent the simplest forms of matter and are the fundamental ingredients of the universe.

    • Characteristics:
      Elements cannot be decomposed into simpler substances through either physical nor chemical means. All known elements are represented on the periodic table.

    • Examples of elements: Oxygen (O), Hydrogen (H), Iron (Fe)
    • A substance is described as pure or in its elemental form when it consists of atom(s) of only one element. For example, oxygen gas consists of two oxygen atoms (`O_2`). The reason for this is described in chemical bonding.

    2. Compounds

    • Definition:
      Compounds are substances formed when two or more different elements bond chemically in a specific and fixed ratio.

    • Characteristics:
      The properties of a compound differ significantly from those of its constituent elements. Also, they can be broken down into their elemental components through chemical reactions but not physical methods.

    • Examples:
      • Water (`H_2O`) is a compound consisting of two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen
      • Carbon dioxide (`CO_2`) is a compound consisting of one atom of carbon and two atoms of oxygen.



    Figure 1: Elemental/pure substance (left) – two atoms of the same type, Compound (right) – one molecule of a compound composed of different atoms in a fixed ratio.


      3. Mixtures

      • Definition:
        Mixtures are combinations of two or more substances (elements and/or compounds) that are physically combined but not chemically bonded.

      • Characteristics:
        Each component of the mixture maintains its original properties. Components of the mixture can be separated using physical separation techniques like filtration or distillation.

      • Examples:
        • Saltwater is a mixture of water (`H_2O`) and salt (`NaCl`) both of which are compounds.
        • Air is a mixture of various gases: nitrogen gas (`N_2`) and oxygen gas (`O_2`) both of which are elemental forms of nitrogen and oxygen, respectively.


      Figure 2: Particle Structure of a Mixture – array of both elements and compounds that are put together but not chemically bonded.