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article imageFifth state of matter created onboard the ISS

By Tim Sandle     Jun 14, 2020 in Science
Scientists working on-board the International Space Station have created what they describe as the fifth state of matter, a state referred to as the 'Bose-Einstein condensate', initially theorized by Albert Einstein and Satyendra Nath Bose in the 1920s.
The development comes from the Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL), which is housed on the space station. This laboratory pod has been in operation since 2018 and it looks at different states of matter, harnessing the advantages of zero gravity and extreme cold conditions.
The research laboratory has developed a state of matter called the Bose-Einstein condensate. This state was created using a special device that can cool atoms of rubidium and potassium contained within a vacuum chamber. As the atoms cool a laser light is applied in order to slowdown their movement. At the end of the process, as New Scientist reports, magnetic fields are formed which contains cloud of atoms, held at close to absolute zero (which is minus 273°Celsius).
What’s So Cool About NASA’s Cold Atom Lab?
States of matter
In physics, a state of matter is one of the distinct forms in which matter can exist. Four states of matter are observable in everyday life: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma.
Bose-Einstein condensates
With the new form of matter, this is where atoms begin to clump together, behaving as if they were one big "super-atom." What is of significance about the discovery is that this state may provide clues about dark energy, which is the energy thought to be behind the Universe's accelerating expansion.
It is thought that 68 percent of the Universe is dark energy; with dark matter making up about 27 percent. With the remainder, such as everything on Earth, everything we can observe, and all other normal matter accounts for 5 percent of the universe. Scientists know only a little about dark energy and dark matter, neither of which can be directly measured.
With the research finding, scientists plan to hope to use the discovery in order to assess how atoms collide on a quantum level. Longer-term, it is expected that the research will enable physicists to probe ripples in space-time (gravitational waves) by measuring disturbances in the movement of the atoms.
Research paper
The discovery has been published in the journal Nature, where the paper is titled "Observation of Bose–Einstein condensates in an Earth-orbiting research lab."
More about boseeinstein condensate, Matter, Physics
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