Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Jupiter’s „Trojans“ on an Atomic Scale

25.01.2012
The planet Jupiter keeps asteroids on stable orbits – and in a similar way, electrons can be stabilized in their orbit around the atomic nucleus. Calculations carried out at the Vienna University of Technology have now been verified in an experiment.

Planets can orbit a star for billions of years. Electrons circling the atomic nucleus are often visualized as tiny planets. But due to quantum effects, the behavior of atoms usually differs significantly from planetary systems. Austrian and US-American scientists have now succeeded in keeping electrons on planet-like orbits for a long time. This was done using an idea from astronomy: Jupiter stabilizes the orbits of asteroids (the so called “Trojans”), and in a very similar way, the orbits of electrons around the nucleus can be stabilized using an electromagnetic field. The results of this experiment have now been published in the journal “Physical Review Letters”.


Giant Atoms

They are probably the largest atoms on earth: “The diameter of the electronic orbits is several hundredths of a millimeter – an enormous distance on an atomic scale”, says Shuhei Yoshida (Vienna UT). The atoms are even larger than erythrocytes. Yoshida made the calculations at Vienna University of Technology, the experiment was carried out at Rice University in Houston (Texas).

The Electron is not a Planet

The idea that atoms are similar to planetary systems dates back to Niels Bohr: he came up with the first atomic model, in which electrons circle the nucleus in well-defined orbits. This view, however, is now seen to be outdated. In quantum physics, the electron is described as a quantum wave, or a “probability cloud”, that surrounds the atomic nucleus. The location of an electron in the ground state (the lowest possible energy level) is not well defined. Relative to the nucleus, it is situated in all possible directions at the same time. Asking about its “real position” or its orbit just does not make sense. Only if the electron is transferred into a state of higher energy, it can be manipulated in such a way that it moves along orbit-like paths.

Jupiter’s trick – Used for the Atom

Unlike planets, electrons will not keep moving in such an orbit for ever. “Without additional stabilization, the electron-wave would become delocalized after a few cycles”, says Professor Joachim Burgdörfer, head of the Institute for Theoretical Physics at Vienna UT. A simple idea on how to stabilize orbits has been known in astronomy for a long time: the gravity of Jupiter, the heaviest planet in our solar system, stabilizes the orbits of the “Trojans” – thousands of small asteroids. They aggregate around so-called “Lagrange points” on Jupiter’s orbital path. Staying close to these Lagrange points, the asteroids circle the sun together with the planet – with exactly the same orbital velocity, so that the asteroids never collide with Jupiter.

In the experiment, the stabilizing influence of Jupiter’s gravity is substituted by a cleverly designed electromagnetic field. The field oscillates precisely with the frequency corresponding to the orbital period of the electron around the nucleus. It sets the pace for the electron, and that way the electron-wave is kept at a specific point for a long time – much like a large number of asteroids, staying close to Jupiter’s Lagrange points on their orbit around the sun. Quantum physics even allows manipulations which are impossible in a planetary system: using the electromagnetic field, the electron can by shifted into a different orbit – as if the orbit of Jupiter and its asteroids was suddenly shifted to the orbit of Saturn.

Big and Small

The physicists succeeded in creating an atomic miniature version of a solar system and preparing atoms which are remarkably close to the historic Bohr model. In future, the researchers want to prepare atoms in which several electrons move on planetary orbits at the same time. Using such atoms, it should be possible to investigate in greater detail how the quantum-world of tiny objects corresponds to the classical world as we perceive it.

Picture download: http://www.tuwien.ac.at/dle/pr/aktuelles/downloads/2012/trojaner

Original publication: http://link.aps.org/doi/10.1103/PhysRevLett.108.043001

Further information:
Prof. Shuhei Yoshida
Institute for Theoretical Physics
Vienna University of Technology
Wiedner Hauptstraße 8, 1040 Wien
+43-1-58801-13611
shuhei.yoshida@tuwien.ac.at
Prof. Joachim Burgdörfer
Institute for Theoretical Physics
Vienna University of Technology
Wiedner Hauptstraße 8, 1040 Wien
+43-1-58801-13610
burg@concord.itp.tuwien.ac.at

Florian Aigner | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.tuwien.ac.at
http://www.tuwien.ac.at/en/news/news_detail/article/7371/

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Climate cycles may explain how running water carved Mars' surface features
02.12.2016 | Penn State

nachricht What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?
02.12.2016 | University of Toronto

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>