What is matter? How does it behave? And why is it important? The study of matter has been going on since ancient times.
In modern physics, matter is defined as anything that takes up space and occupies volume.
This includes atoms, molecules, crystals, solids, liquids, gases, plasma, and radiation.
Matter is the fundamental building block of our universe. It makes up stars, planets, and even us.
Understanding its properties helps scientists better understand the nature of the universe.
In our known universe, scientists have come up with a way to sort matter into different categories.
You will have inevitably heard of the first 3. Solid, liquid, and gas. Does that ring any science fair bells?
You’ve probably not heard of the other four which are ionized plasma, quark-gluon plasma, Bose-Einstein condensate, and fermionic condensate.
In this article, we’ll go through the 7 different states and give you an explanation about them.
Matter refers to the way the particles in an object are arranged. The arrangement can be regular or irregular.
A solid is a material made from many small particles called atoms.
Atoms arrange themselves in a very orderly fashion so they take up less space than if they were randomly distributed.
When all the atoms are lined up next to each other, they create a crystal structure.
A crystal is a three-dimensional array of atoms where the atoms are lined up like bricks in a wall.
Crystals are common in everyday life. They make up rocks, metals, gems, and even your teeth.
If you look at a diamond, you see that it is made up of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal pattern.
This category of matter includes water, gasoline, oil, etc.
Like solids, these substances also consist of particles that have strong bonds between each other.
However, unlike solid, their arrangements do not follow the same rules.
These types of objects tend to be spread out rather than packed tightly together.
This means that there are more empty spaces between the water molecules than there are water molecules.
These are the most abundant type of matter in the universe.
Gases are composed of individual particles or molecules that move around freely. There are two main types: gases and plasmas.
Plasmas are charged particles that are held together by electromagnetic forces.
Plasma is found in stars, lightning, and the sun’s atmosphere.
Gases include air, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon, radon, and others.
Gases are another type of matter that consists of individual particles that are loosely bound together.
Unlike liquids and solids, gases are not dense enough to form a crystal structure. Instead, they are spread out.
Plasma is when electrons are stripped off of atoms, they become free-floating charged particles.
These particles move around quickly because they are no longer attached to the atom. Plasma is found throughout the universe.
When electrons are stripped away from atoms, they become free-floating ions.
Ionized plasma is similar to plasma in that it has a high concentration of free-floating positive and negative charges.
But unlike plasma, ionized plasma is not as hot. It is just slightly warmer than room temperature.
Ionized plasma is found in the sun’s corona and in some parts of the earth’s upper atmosphere.
Quark-Gluon Plasma (QGP)
If you think of a nucleus as a ball of protons and neutrons, then a quark is a tiny particle inside the nucleus.
Quarks are smaller than nuclei. They are also much lighter. Quarks are fundamental building blocks of matter.
They are the smallest pieces of matter that exist. Quarks are connected to each other through gluons.
Gluons are the force carriers for the strong nuclear force. Glueballs are hypothetical states of matter that contain only quarks.
Quark-gluon plasma is the hottest known state of matter. It occurs when quarks and gluons are heated to extremely high temperatures.
The energy released during this process causes the quarks and gluon to combine into one big blob.
This is called the quark-gluon phase transition.
Quark-gauge plasma is a different kind of plasma that contains both quarks and gluonic fields.
It can occur at even higher temperatures than QGP.
If the name sounds familiar, it’s because the Bose-Einstein Condensate was named after the two scientists involved in its theory.
Satyendra Nath Bose and Albert Einstein. Condensate is an ideal gas with all the properties of a liquid.
The difference between a liquid and a gas is the space between the molecules. A gas does not have any order like a liquid.
In a Bose-Einstein condensate, there are a huge number of identical bosons.
Bosons are subatomic particles that obey the same rules as photons.
When these bosons come close to each other, they interact strongly with each other.
As the number of bosons increases, their interactions get stronger.
Eventually, the bosons reach such a high density that they start behaving like a single object.
At this point, the system becomes a Bose-Einstein condensate.
A fermionic condensate is a superconductor made up of fermions.
Fermions are elementary particles that obey the Pauli Exclusion Principle.
Like bosons, fermions repel each other. However, unlike bosons, fermion pairs cannot be created or destroyed.
If you put more than one fermion into a container, they will always occupy opposite sides of the container.
So if you heat a fermionic condensate, the fermions will pair up and form Cooper Pairs.
Cooper pairs are formed by pairing electrons with holes.
Fermionic condensate, also known as Fermi-Dirac condensate, is a type of superfluid material that consists of spin-polarized fermions.
The fractional quantum Hall effect is a phenomenon observed in certain types of materials.
It is characterized by the quantization of electron charge and statistics of electrons.
Quantum Mechanics And Condensed Matter Physics
Condensed matter physics is the study of physical phenomena that occur when the size of a substance gets very small.
For example, if we take a piece of metal and reduce its size until it reaches atomic dimensions, it will behave differently than it would if it were still large enough to be considered a bulk sample.
Condensed matter physics is also concerned with how the behavior of individual objects changes when those objects are placed in a group.
Quantum mechanics is the branch of physics dealing with the microscopic world.
Quantum mechanics is based on the wave function, which describes the probability amplitude for finding a particle at a particular position.
The wave function can be represented mathematically using complex numbers.
The Schrödinger equation is a partial differential equation used to describe the evolution of the wave function over time.
Quantum mechanics is the most fundamental description of nature available today. All other branches of science build upon it.
It is because of Quantum mechanics that we were able to identify and study all 7 types of matter.
You could say, Quantum mechanics really matters.
And that’s all there is to it… to literally everything: Solids, liquids, gases, ionized plasma, quark-gluon plasma, Bose-Einstein condensate, and Fermionic condensate.
These forms of matter, along with antimatter (that’s another story), make up the entire universe!
That’s pretty impressive for a list of 7 things, ay?
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