Bosons form one of the two fundamental classes of subatomic particle, the other being fermions. All subatomic particles must be one or the other. A composite particle (hadron) may fall into either class depending on its composition

In particle physics, a boson (/ˈboʊzɒn/ /ˈboʊsɒn/) is a subatomic particle whose spin quantum number has an integer value (0, 1, 2, ...). Bosons form one of the two fundamental classes of subatomic particle, the other being fermions, which have odd half-integer spin (12, 32, 52, ...). Every observed subatomic particle is either a boson or a fermion.

Some bosons are elementary particles occupying a special role in particle physics, distinct from the role of fermions (which are sometimes described as the constituents of "ordinary matter"). Certain elementary bosons (e.g. gluons) act as force carriers, which give rise to forces between other particles, while one (the Higgs boson) contributes to the phenomenon of mass. Other bosons, such as mesons, are composite particles made up of smaller constituents.

Outside the realm of particle physics, multiple identical composite bosons (in this context sometimes known as 'bose particles') behave at high densities or low temperatures in a characteristic manner described by Bose–Einstein statistics: for example a gas of helium-4 atoms becomes a superfluid at temperatures close to absolute zero. Similarly, superconductivity arises because some quasiparticles, such as Cooper pairs, behave in the same way.


The name boson was coined by Paul Dirac to commemorate the contribution of Satyendra Nath Bose, an Indian physicist, when he was a reader (later professor) at the University of Dhaka, Bengal (now in Bangladesh), he developed, in conjunction with Albert Einstein, the theory characterising such particles, now known as Bose–Einstein statistics and Bose-Einstein condensate.

Elementary bosons

All observed elementary particles are either bosons (with integer spin) or fermions (with odd half-integer spin). Whereas the elementary particles that make up ordinary matter (leptons and quarks) are fermions, elementary bosons occupy a special role in particle physics. They act either as force carriers which give rise to forces between other particles, or in one case give rise to the phenomenon of mass.

According to the Standard Model of Particle Physics there are five elementary bosons:

  • A second order tensor boson (spin = 2) called the graviton (G) has been hypothesised as the force carrier for gravity, but so far all attempts to incorporate gravity into the Standard Model have failed.

Composite bosons

Composite particles (such as hadrons, nuclei, and atoms) can be bosons or fermions depending on their constituents. Since bosons have integer spin and fermions odd half-integer spin, any composite particle made up of an even number of fermions is a boson.

Composite bosons include:

As quantum particles, the behaviour of multiple indistinguishable bosons at high densities is described by Bose–Einstein statistics. One characteristic which becomes important in superfluidity and other applications of Bose–Einstein condensates is that there is no restriction on the number of bosons that may occupy the same quantum state. As a consequence, when for example a gas of helium-4 atoms is cooled to temperatures very close to absolute zero and the kinetic energy of the particles becomes negligible, it condenses into a low-energy state and becomes a superfluid.


Certain quasiparticles are observed to behave as bosons and to follow Bose–Einstein statistics, including Cooper pairs, plasmons and phonons.: 130 

See also

  • Anyon – Type of two-dimensional quasiparticle
  • Bose gas – State of matter of many bosons
  • Parastatistics – Notion in statistical mechanics

Explanatory notes

  1. ^ Despite being the carrier of the gravitational force which interacts with mass, most attempts at quantum gravity have expected the graviton to have no mass, just like the photon has no electric charge, and the W and Z bosons have no "flavour".
  2. ^ Even-mass-number nuclides, which comprise 153254 = ~ 60% of all stable nuclides, are bosons, i.e. they have integer spin. Almost all (148 of the 153) are even-proton, even-neutron (EE) nuclides, which necessarily have spin 0 because of pairing. The remaining 5 stable bosonic nuclides are odd-proton, odd-neutron stable nuclides (see Even and odd atomic nuclei § Odd proton, odd neutron); these odd–odd bosons are: 2
    , 6
    , 14
    and 180m
    ). All have nonzero integer spin.

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