Science & Tech

Scientists just created a new state of matter – here's what that means

Scientists just created a new state of matter – here's what that means

The discovery may help scientists understand how the universe is put together

Scientists have just created an entirely new state of matter made out of subatomic particles.

The bosonic correlated insulator, to be precise, is both a new material and a new state of matter, said researchers from California, Arizona and Japan.

There are four fundamental states of matter, liquid, solid, gas and plasma – an electrically charged gas found in situations like stars and lightning strikes.

But there are many others when you drill down to quantum level (that means at an atomic and subatomic level). The scientists said this is a new one.

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The new material is a lattice-shaped pattern, formed from a layer of the two different types of subatomic particles: bosons and fermions.

Bosons are a type of particle which is difficult for scientists to create and manipulate because they do not interact with each other. Fermions are more stable – particles such as electrons – and interact through electrostatic force.

The material sees the two different types of particle combining and interacting in a new way, with the particles eventually form into a crystalline state, which in turn creates a material which has an insulating effect.

“Conventionally, people have spent most of their efforts to understand what happens when you put many fermions together,” says condensed matter physicist Chenhao Jin from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).

“The main thrust of our work is that we basically made a new material out of interacting bosons.”

The new material doesn’t yet have any practical uses, but exotic creations like this help scientists understand how the universe is put together, the team said.

“What happened here is that we discovered the correlation that drove the bosons into a highly ordered state,” said physicist Richen Xiong, from UCSB.

The scientists think the discovery could lead to them finding more materials like this further down the line.

“We know that some materials have very bizarre properties,” said Xiong. “And one goal of condensed matter physics is to understand why they have these rich properties and find ways to make these behaviours come out more reliably.”

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