Apr 19, 2019 | Updated: 11:14 AM EDT

Scientists Discover a New State of Matter

Apr 09, 2019 07:50 AM EDT

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Examples of Phases of Matter
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Researchers from the University of Edinburgh have discovered another state of matter. 

Schools mostly teach that there are just three phases of matter. However, physicists from the said university have discovered other varieties that can exist under extreme temperature and pressure conditions. 

Potassium atoms exist as a solid and a liquid at the same time and this was confirmed through artificial intelligence. 

"It would be like holding a sponge filled with water that starts dripping out, except the sponge is also made of water," says study co-author Andreas Hermann, a condensed matter physicist at the University of Edinburgh whose team describes the work this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

According to National Geographic, "the unusual state of potassium could exist under conditions found in Earth's mantle, but the element is generally not found in a pure form and is usually bound up with other material. Similar simulations could help study the behaviors of other minerals in such extreme environments."

A research conducted 15 years ago with sodium showed similarities. Sodium has the same metallic properties with potassium as they are both found in Group 1A. Sodium was subjected to 20,000 times the pressure at present at the surface of the Earth. The metal transformed into a transparent material. It no longer acted as a conductor, instead, it acted as an insulator. The sodium was probed using x-rays and its atoms became a complex crystal formation. 

Potassium was subjected to the same conditions. "its atoms arrange themselves into an elaborate formation-five cylindrical tubes organized into an X shape, with four long chains sitting in the crooks of this assembly, almost like two separate and non-intertwining materials," reported by National Geographic

"Somehow, these potassium atoms decide to divide up into two loosely linked sub-lattices," Hermann says. However, the four chains disappeared as the heat was increased. 

The team used an artificial intelligence machine called a  neural network to predict behavior based on previous examples. the said neural network sampled a few potassium ions and can now simulation tens of thousands of atoms. 

The potassium was in a chain-melted state when it was subjected to 20,000 to 40,000 times atmospheric pressure and 400 to 800 Kelvin. This was confirmed by the neural network. 

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