New states of matter… making a mess of my slide pack

How many states of matter are there?… Hold that answer, first I’ll explain why…

We regularly provide formal and informal training, in fact it is something we  feel differentiates us, helps us learn and is a great  way to keep in contact with the industry. With a team including ex-NPL staff, Oxford graduates, PhDs, one of the best UKAS laboratories in Europe and years of combined experience in the fields of humidity, dew point and temperature  we feel we are well placed to offer these expertise.

One of the first things we discuss when learning about the principles of humidity, are the states of matter. It s vital to understand solids, liquids and gases before we can go on to vapour pressure, dew point, frost point and triple points etc.

I have yet to find someone who doesn’t know the three states but this light introduction acts as a good starting point to the deeper subject.

However, I am regularly corrected that plasma is the forth state of matter (not relevant for our discussions as such but still valid all the same). So I have corrected my slides accordingly.

What happened next, I struggled to believe at first when I was told… Apparently within chickens we can find another state of matter!! Seriously… chickens. To be exact the chickens eyeball. It is called ‘disordered hyperuniformity’ and in simple terms it is a state that has some crystal like properties and some liquid like properties.

A state of chicken
A state of chicken; Courtesy of Joseph Corbo and Timothy Lau, Washington University in St. Louis

The  arrangement of cells was discovered by researchers at  Princeton University and Washington University in St. Louis. Full details can be found here on the Princeton site. http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S39/32/02E70/

What next I thought, and where best to look but wikipedia… A quick search highlights that the four fundamental states of matter are just the tip of the iceberg.

There are; Non-classical states, Low-temperature states, High-energy states, Very high energy states … the list goes on and this is just a glance at wikipedia!

The latest (unless another has just been discovered) is the quantum droplet and apart from being the most recently discovered comes with a great picture.

Quantum Droplet
Quantum Droplet; Credit: Baxley/JILA

Part particle, part liquid, it is termed a “quasiparticle”. I wont attempt to explain it here but if you are interested is it nicely explained on the Scientific American website, which includes a link to the original Nature paper. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/dropleton-quantum-droplet-quasiparticle/

So back to the question; how many states of matter are there? I will stick to answering that with” there are four fundamental states of matter…” I think the rest we’ll leave out of our training courses for now!

Dr. Jeremy Wingate
Rotronic UK

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