A classical system is metastable if it is above its minimum-energy state, but requires an energy input before it can reach a lower-energy state; accordingly, a metastable system can act like a stable system, provided that energy inputs (e.g., thermal fluctuations) remain below some threshold. Systems with strong metastability are commonly described as stable. Quantum mechanical effects can permit metastable states to reach lower energies by tunneling, without an energy input; an associated, broader definition of metastable embraces all systems that have a long lifetime (by some standard) in a state above the minimum-energy state.





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Metastable impact electron spectroscopy

Single-electron parametron


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