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Fifth State of Matter: Current Affairs 

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Fifth State of Matter

Relevance: Science and Technology

Context: Fifth state of matter made on the International Space Station.

 

What is the Fifth state of Matter?

  • There are four natural states of matter: Solids, liquids, gases, and plasma. The fifth state is the man-made Bose-Einstein condensates. The fifth state of matter is also known as Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC).
  • BECs — the existence of which was predicted by Albert Einstein and Indian mathematician Satyendra Nath Bose almost a century ago — are formed when atoms of certain elements are cooled to near absolute zero (0 Kelvin, minus 273.15 Celsius). At this point, the atoms become a single entity with quantum properties, wherein each particle also functions as a wave of matter.
  • BECs straddle the line between the macroscopic world governed by forces such as gravity and the microscopic plane, ruled by quantum mechanics.
  • BECs are extremely fragile. The slightest interaction with the external world is enough to warm them past their condensation threshold. This makes them nearly impossible for scientists to study on Earth, where gravity interferes with the magnetic fields required to hold them in place for observation.
  • The slower the atoms move around, the cooler they become. As they lose heat, a magnetic field is introduced to keep them from moving and each particle’s wave expands. Cramming many bosons into a microscopic “trap” that causes their waves to overlap into a single matter wave — a property known as quantum degeneracy.


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