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population inversion

n. (context physics English) The creation of a system in which more atoms or molecules are in an excited state than in a ground state

Population inversion

In science, specifically statistical mechanics, a population inversion occurs while a system (such as a group of atoms or molecules) exists in a state in which more members of the system are in higher, excited states than in lower, unexcited energy states. It is called an "inversion" because in many familiar and commonly encountered physical systems, this is not possible. The concept is of fundamental importance in laser science because the production of a population inversion is a necessary step in the workings of a standard laser.