Scientists found a new state of matter called Supersolid. It sounds like a solid but it’s not.
A supersolid is a superfluid that got it’s molecules together. Scientists who created this new state of matter took a Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC), made of sodium gas, and used lasers to cool it to near absolute zero. The atoms of this new matter are moving extremely slowly. A BEC is a special phase of matter created in 2001 winning researchers the Nobel Prize in Physics. Once cooled to a BEC, the sodium flowed with zero friction. This BEC was also superconductive. This means its electrons moved through it with zero resistance. There are numerous scientific benefits to these two conditions, but we’re not here to talk about that. In this case, the scientists kept cooling that sodium and at some point, it arranged into a non-crystalline “solid!”
The scientists called it a superfluid flow with “long-range spatial periodicity of [a] solid.”
Essentially, think of it like a coffee cup filled with a frictionless, superconducting, gel that if you could stir would never stop going around. The “fluid” didn’t suddenly become hard, instead, it’s not exactly solid — think like… gel. It’s a fluid. But, it behaves like a solid.
They’ve still got a lot to learn about these fluids/solids, but according to their paper, their supersolid [quote] “establishes a system with continuous symmetry-breaking properties, associated collective excitations and superfluid behavior.” Let’s break that down. Superfluid behavior as we explained is a frictionless superconductor. Collective excitations is a fancy way to say quasiparticles. Quasiparticles are a group of particles that behave as if they’re one because their parts are interacting somehow. And then there’s symmetry-breaking. That’s also describing particle movement, normally in quantum mechanics, symmetry is a big deal. Breaking it? A bigger deal. At the moment, it continues the old saying — the closer you look the stranger things get. But, do we have six states of matter now? Actually no, we don’t. We have way more.
The states of matter solid, liquid, and gas that you’ve been living with your whole life were never all there were. It’s kind of like when you’re learning math. First, you’re taught numbers, then they tell you there are infinite numbers. Then they tell you there are infinite negative numbers too. And then you find out there are irrational numbers and imaginary numbers. And you can do calculations with infinities and embed equations into each other. The matter is like that.
Solid, liquid, gas and plasma exist. It’s all about molecular arrangement.
Solids are interacting heavily, liquids are loosey-goosey, and gases are just barely interacting while Plasma is “free” it can do anything. But on top of those four, there are several more states of matter. Cold ones like the Bose-Einstein Condensate and Supersolid and hot ones like electron-degenerate matter (free particles found in white dwarf stars) or the theorized stranger matter (possibly found in neutron stars). Plus, of course, time crystals. Which have low-energy states and weird effects across time symmetry. We have a new state of matter! But we don’t now have six or seven, we have at least a dozen, they’re just out there, experimental, laboratory-only or extreme kinds of matter! Our universe is awesome.