In primary school they teach us that solid, liquid and gaseous are the three states of matter, as we advance in our studies we discover that there is one more called plasma. In recent years, science has tried to experiment with much stranger shapes but Is there a fifth state that we don’t know yet? Well, it does exist and now it is a reality.
It turns out that in the International Space Station, a group of NASA scientists tested the Cold Atoms Laboratory that they have on board and taking advantage of the microgravity environment that is in the space, they got generate a fifth state of mattercalled Bose-Einstein condensate.
And maybe right now they’re wondering, Condensed from whom? But do not worry, here we will explain how the whole thing is. According to the study published by Nature in this regard, the Bose-Einstein condensate is halfway between the microscopic world, which is governed by the rules of gravity and macroscopic, in which the laws of physics that we all know apply.
This state of matter predicted by the great TOlbert Einstein and the Indian mathematician Satyendra Nath Bose almost a century ago, is formed when the atoms of certain elements cool to almost absolute zero (0 degrees Kelvin, or minus 273.15 degrees Celsius), the lowest possible temperature.
In this point, atoms become a single entity with quantum properties, as if they were a super atom, where each particle also functions as a wave of matter. Scientists believe that Bose-Einstein condensates could give us clues about phenomena that are still a mystery to us like dark energy, the unknown energy that is believed to be behind the accelerated expansion of the Universe.
Can you see this on our planet?
Although this is excellent news for science, here on Earth we will have to wait a long time to see this phenomenon, because we do not have the right environment to appreciate them in all their splendor, because the gravity on our planet interferes with the magnetic fields necessary to keep them in place for observation.
According to the researchers, this fifth state of matter is so fragile that the slightest interaction with the external world (that is ours) is enough to heat it beyond its condensation threshold, removing it entirely. To generate a condensate like this they use a process known as evaporative cooling, and in which they are supported by magnetic fields that trap atoms as if it were a trap.
“One of the ways we cool atoms beyond the point where Bose-Einstein condensation occurs is by weakening the trap, allowing the atomic cloud to expand. As it expands, it cools, “said the researcher and project leader, Robert Thompson. This process as explained, it is very similar to what happens with a spray bottle, where the gas inside expands and cools as we spray it.
On earth, atoms begin to fall immediately due to gravitational pull and usually hits the observation instruments in a fraction of a second, making it impossible to see this phenomenon. So thanks to the gravity of space they were able to observe for a long time what was happening with this fifth state of matter.
There are also other advantages of working with the fifth state of matter in space. On Earth, lThe different types of atoms will separate to a certain extent and the heavier ones are lost, varying in density by gravity, what leads to some experiments are impossible to carry out. At the moment, we will only be able to observe them in their research articles.
“In space, you are basically limited by how much you can cool your atoms, and we hope to achieve more than five seconds in the Cold Atoms Laboratory, and perhaps we will achieve much more time in future missions,” Thompson closed. For now They have managed to observe and study it, but we do not doubt that in the future (somewhat distant, the truth) can replicate the state of matter on our planet.