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Exotic States of Matter

By Ron Kurtus (30 April 2013)

Besides the three major states or phases of matter—solid, liquid, and gas—there are several other phases that could be called exotic states. They relate to extreme temperatures and pressures and have distinct physical characteristics different than the other states.

At very high temperatures, matter becomes a plasma or ionized gas. At normal temperatures, there are amorphous states of matter. There are also other forms of matter high temperatures that may also be considered states.

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States at very high temperatures

At very high temperatures, a gas may change to the plasma state of matter. A plasma of often considered the fourth state of matter.

Other exotic states at high temperatures or pressures are the degenerate matter and quark-gluon plasmas. They are only observed by scientists.

Plasma state

Plasmas consist of ionized gases and an equal number of electrons that have been stripped from the atoms or molecules. Temperatures required to create plasmas are usually around several thousand degrees Celsius.

Plasmas can readily conduct electricity and may generate magnetic fields and electric currents. They are found in lightning and the Sun, as well as other stars.

Degenerate matter

When matter is under extremely high pressure, it can transition to a series of exotic states of matter known as degenerate matter. This form is seen in white dwarf and neutron stars.

Quark-gluon plasma

The quark-gluon plasma is a phase of matter that is only briefly seen in high energy particle accelerator reactions.

Combined states at normal temperatures

At normal temperatures and pressures, there are certain configurations of atoms or molecules that exhibit different characteristics than the three states of gas, liquid, or solid. Amorphous solids, plastics crystals, liquid crystals are examples of combined states of matter.

Amorphous solid

An amorphous solid is a material that is not quite a solid and sometimes flow slowly, similar to a liquid. Glass, gels, and thin films are amorphous solids.

Plastic crystal

A plastic crystal is a crystal composed of weakly interacting molecules that possess some orientation or conformational degree of freedom. The name plastic crystal refers to the mechanical softness of such phases. Such materials often resemble waxes and are easily deformed.

Liquid crystals

Liquid crystals are matter in a state that has properties between those of conventional liquid and those of solid crystal.

States at very low temperatures

At very low temperatures, materials may become super-fluids or Bose-Einstein condensates.

Super-fluid state

When liquid helium is cooled to close to a temperature of absolute zero (0 K or −273.15 °C), it becomes what is called a super-fluid.

It has close to zero viscosity and flows without friction. It has the unusual property of actually flowing up the walls and out of its container. Another property is that it has almost infinite thermal conductivity, such that no temperature gradient can form in it.

Bose-Einstein condensates

The Bose-Einstein condensate is an exotic state where matter no longer behaves as independent particles and collapses into a single quantum state. The phase usually required temperatures very close to absolute zero.

Summary

Besides the three major states or phases of matter—solid, liquid, and gas—there are several other phases that could be called exotic states. They relate to extreme temperatures and pressures and have distinct physical characteristics different than the other states.

At very high temperatures, matter becomes a plasma or ionized gas. At normal temperatures, there are amorphous states of matter. There are also other forms of matter high temperatures that may also be considered states.


Look beyond what is normal


Resources and references

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State of matter - Wikipedia

Superfluidity

Bose-Einstein condensate

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