Everything in the universe is made up of matter, small non-visible particles called molecules and atoms. At school, we were taught that there are three states of matter; solid, liquid and gas. Examples of solids include objects such as a table, where atoms are closely packed and are not able to move around, having low kinetic energy. The particles in liquids such as water have a looser structure and have a higher kinetic energy than solids. Gases, like air, do not have a structure but whizz around at high speeds.

However, there are two more states of matter that exist in the universe; plasma and Bose-Einstein condensates (BEC). While plasma is thought to be a state of matter which could easily be a subset of gases, it in fact is very different from gases. Gases are made up of an equal amount of positive and negative charges, however plasma is made up of positively charged particles which have been stripped from their negative charge. These roaming positively charged particles are referred to ions.

Since, plasma is made of charged particles, it can also conduct electricity.

BEC, on the other hand, is a new state of matter created by using a combination of lasers and magnets. Rubidium was cooled to within a few degrees of absolute zero (-273 degrees Celsius) and molecular motion nearly came to a complete stop. The particles will start to clump together as very little energy is being transferred from one atom to another and also shares some properties of a super fluid, whereby it can flow without friction. BEC is also used to study quantum mechanics on a macroscopic scale and are also used to simulate black holes.

There are indeed five states of matter and not three!

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us