How many states of matter? More than you think!

There are four observable states of matter in our daily lives, which we all know to be solid, liquid, gas and plasma. But what if I told you that there are many more states that exist, in conditions of extreme cold, density and high-energy? These "modern" states of matter are numerous and complex, but some have only been proven theoretically.

The states solid, liquid, gas and plasma are the ones we know and see all around us. They are called "classical states”. Classical states: - Solid: the particles are very close together, and the solids have a definite shape and volume. - Liquid: the particles are more loosely held than that of solids, and they have a definite volume but no definite shape. - Gas: the particles are very loosely held and they have no definite shape or volume. - Plasma: they are hot ionized gases, but are not called gases because they can self-generate magnetic fields and electric currents, which gases cannot do. However, the modern states of matter are more complex, found only under specific conditions in our universe, and probably not something we see in our day-to-day lives. Modern states: - Excitonium: the state where an electron and a hole (a place an electron could be in an atom, but isn’t) tend to stay in a localised region and are attracted to each other by electrostatic forces. - Degenerate matter: a highly dense state of fermionic matter (fermions include the particles that makes up protons, neutrons and electrons- quarks and leptons) where particles must have really high states of kinetic energy and are under really high pressure. This matter can be found in white dwarf stars and neutron stars. - Photonic matter: in some rare conditions called quantum nonlinear media, photons- the particles that make up light waves, are massless, and usually don’t interact with each other- can behave as if they had mass, and interact with each other, and can form photonic “molecules”. Think of the photonic matter as similar to the matter that makes up lightsabers. Except scientists aren’t really sure if it can decapitate people yet. - Quantum matter: it gives rise to electricity, something called “quantized Hall voltage”. A quantum spin Hall state (currently theoretical, but who knows what it could be in the future?) may allow the development of electronic devices that lose less energy and heat up less. That means longer lives for phones, laptops and basically all electronics, with less emission of heat. - Bose-Einstein condensate: This is a low energy phase that is not present in nature, because it needs a temperature very close to zero Kelvin- absolute zero. The phase occurs when a large number of bosons (particles that aren’t fermions [look above] like photons and gluons) all inhabit the same quantum state and basically become one single wave or particle. So the next time you're studying for your chemistry or physics test on the states of matter, don't take it too lightly, your teachers are only giving you a glimpse of the actual variety of states of matter that exist in our universe.

References: Image credits- Bose-Einstein Condensate: Photonic matter: Excitonium: Classical states:


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