Satyendranath Bose

What is a matter, an atom and molecule?

Matter is the “stuff” that makes up the universe — everything that takes up space and has mass is matter.

All matter is made up of atoms, which are in turn made up of protons, neutrons and electrons.

Atoms come together to form molecules, which are the building blocks for all types of matter.

Both atoms and molecules are held together by a form of potential energy called chemical energy.


Five states of matter:

There are four natural states of matter: Solids, liquids, gases and plasma.

The fifth state is the man-made Bose-Einstein condensates.


About Bose-Einstein condensate:

A Bose-Einstein condensate is so named because its existence was posited almost a century ago by Albert Einstein and Indian mathematician Satyendra Nath Bose.

This exotic material only exists when atoms of certain elements are cooled to temperatures near absolute zero.

At that point, clusters of atoms begin functioning as a single quantum object with both wave and particle properties.


When was it first created?

BEC was created by scientists in 1995. Using a combination of lasers and magnets, scientists cooled a sample of rubidium to within a few degrees of absolute zero.At this extremely low temperature, molecular motion comes very close to stopping.Since there is almost no kinetic energy being transferred from one atom to another, the atoms begin to clump together. There are no longer thousands of separate atoms, just one “super atom.”


Why study BEC?

A BEC is used to study quantum mechanics on a macroscopic level. Light appears to slow down as it passes through a BEC, allowing scientists to study the particle/wave paradox.

A BEC also has many of the properties of a superfluid, or a fluid that flows without friction.BECs are also used to simulate conditions that might exist in black holes.


Why is it easy to create BEC in space?

BECs have been produced in a variety of experiments on Earth since 1995, but these are hindered by gravity, which collapses the clouds in a split second.

To make a BEC, scientists must first corral and then supercool atoms.

  • In the near-zero gravity in space, they can mix the ingredients in a much smaller catchment “trap.” On Earth’s surface, the atoms begin to repel each other and fly apart almost instantaneously.
  • On Earth, laboratories can only maintain Bose-Einstein condensates for a matter of milliseconds. However, research aboard the ISS has created a Bose-Einstein condensate that persisted for more than a second.