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Photonics Dictionary

metastable state

An excited energy state of an atom or atomic system that has a longer lifetime than the ordinary excited state and typically a shorter lifetime than the ground state of that system.  Metastable states are intermediate (or transition) states of matter and are commonly recognized as melting solids, freezing (or boiling) liquids, etc., in which energy from the system is lost and does have a finite lifetime.
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