Difference Between Mass and Matter

Understand What is Mass and Matter

An object composed of many smaller particles resembling each other known as its smallest unit is called an atom. The atoms containing subatomic particles like protons, neutrons and a cloud of electrons take up space and have some mass. These atoms with their subatomic particles are the matter present inside any object. To simplify, the matter is differentiated into various states that we observe regularly such as, solid, liquid and gaseous states. 

The lesser-known states of matter are plasma, quark-gluon plasma, Bose-Einstein condensates and Fermionic condensates. Mass is more like a property of matter. It depends on the gravitational pull of the earth or the acceleration of force.

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Are Mass and Matter The Same Thing?

The two terms mass and matter are quite closely related, however, not interchangeable. Both terms have a significantly different definition which is not to be used interchangeably. The definition of matter is quite broad and a little vague as compared to mass. Matter includes all entities present on earth and its atmosphere that takes up some space and has a definite mass. 


Mass, on the other hand, is the quantity present inside the matter. It is a defining property of matter. If anything you see is three-dimensional i.e. it occupies some space, then you can measure it to find its mass. Mass is the quantity of matter present in any physical entity.


The Difference Between Mass And Matter

There is plenty of difference between mass and matter. There are enough reasons why both terms should not be confused with each other.

  • Mass is a definite quantity present in an entity. It has scientific definitions and differentiations of its types. It is a quantitative property of matter that has methods of calculation.

  • In contrast, the matter is just the content of some physical substance in an entity present in any physical state. Compared to mass, matter sounds like a vague concept which is a defining characteristic of the material world.

  • The matter has its opposite called antimatter composed of antiparticles. However, there is no such opposite term for mass called anti-mass, which is yet another difference between matter and mass.

  • There is a definite unit for measuring mass. However, the exact matter content cannot be measured, it can only be measured in terms of weight (effect of gravitational pull), volume (the space occupied) and mass.     

  • Mass has various forms like gravitational mass, inertial mass, active and passive mass, etc. The matter has various physical states like solid, liquid and gas.

Law of Conservation of Mass

The law of conservation of mass, primarily discovered by Antoine Lavoisier, states that in a chemical reaction, mass can neither be created nor destroyed. To put it elaborately, in any closed system where the exchange of energy or matter does not take place, mass remains constant. It remains the same in both the reactant and the product side of the chemical reaction, in an isolated system where the exchange of matter does not take place. 


The mass conservation concept is widely used in chemistry, thermodynamics, etc. Hence, the law marked a significant step in laying the foundation for modern chemistry.


Law of Conservation of Matter

In various aspects, the law is similar to the law of conservation of mass. The law of conservation of matter states the total amount of matter in any substance remains the same before and after the reaction. The matter is composed of atoms that take part in a chemical reaction. According to the law, in a closed system, an equal number of atoms are present on both sides and they’re of the same type.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What are the Different States of Matter? Describe Bose-Einstein Condensates and Plasma State Briefly.

The three classical states of matter are solid, liquid and gas. Plasma, Bose-Einstein condensates, Fermionic condensates are the other possible states. 


Bose-Einstein Condensates: It is a state of matter where the atoms are cooled down to the near temperature of absolute zero. They do not possess any energy. They come together forming a lump. The whole group of atoms starts behaving as a single one. The particle attaining this state is called a boson.

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Plasma: This state was first described by Irving Langmuir, and is known as the fourth state of matter. When energy is added in the form of heat to a gas, it forms Plasma. Plasma is a positively charged, ionized particle from which electrons peel away due to extreme heat. 

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2. What is Inertial and Gravitational Mass?

Mass can be calculated or measured in seven different ways. These different concepts of mass are proportional to each other and sometimes equal. The proportionality between these values provides the rough concept of mass.

  • Inertial mass: This is defined as the resistance of an object to the acceleration resulting from the force applied upon that object. The body with higher resistance will have greater inertial mass, while the body that accelerates easily has smaller inertial mass. 

  • Gravitational mass: Gravitational mass is measured by the force experienced by every object on earth by earth’s gravitational pull. Earth’s gravitational pull is equal for every object irrespective of size and position.