The fifth state of matter was recently observed by NASA Scientists in space for the first time as part of Bose-Einstein Condensates (BEC) Experiments aboard the International Space Station (ISS), the other states of matter being solid, liquid, gases, and plasma.
Plasma – the fourth state of matter
- Plasma is like gas but comprised of positive ions and free electrons with little or no overall electric charge.
- Because of the presence of charged ions, plasma is highly electrically conductive and responds strongly to magnetic and electric fields (unlike gas).
- Plasmas have no fixed shape or volume and are less dense than solids or liquids.
- Plasma is the most common state of matter in the Universe comprising more than 99% of our visible universe.
- Plasma occurs naturally in the sun, the core of stars, quasars, X-ray beam emitting pulsars, and supernovas.
- On Earth, plasma naturally occurs in flames, lightning, and auroras.
- Plasmas can be formed by heating a gas to high temperatures, as, when heated, the atoms in the gas either gain or lose electrons (ionization).
About Bose-Einstein Condensate – Fifth state of matter
- Bose-Einstein condensate was predicted by Albert Einstein and Indian mathematician Satyendra Nath Bose in the early 1920s.
- BEC is a supercooled gas that does not behave like individual atoms and particles, but an entity in a single quantum state.
- BECs are formed when atoms of certain elements are cooled to near absolute zero (0 Kelvin, minus 273.15 Celsius).
- When they reach that temperature, the atoms become a single entity with quantum properties, wherein each particle also functions as a wave of matter.
- BECs are extremely fragile and the slightest interaction with the external world is enough to warm them past their condensation threshold.
- This makes it nearly impossible for scientists to study them on Earth, where gravity interferes with the magnetic fields required to hold them in place for observation.
BEC experiments will help in
- Spacecraft navigation
- Quantum mechanics on a macroscopic level
- Prospecting for subsurface minerals on the moon and other planetary bodies.
- Tests of general relativity
- Searches for dark energy and Gravitational waves