In the article, highlighted as an “Editor's Suggestion” by the journal, the scientists provide a new theoretical computation of the force acting between a pair of helium atoms, referred to as “pair potential,” that is more accurate than any published to date.
Krzysztof Szalewicz, professor in the UD Department of Physics and Astronomy, led the study, which involved Wojciech Cencek, a postdoctoral researcher at UD, and colleagues from the University of Warsaw and Adam Mickiewicz University in Poland, and the University of Oslo in Norway.
Most of us know helium as a gas for filling party balloons or for making your voice temporarily sound like a cartoon character's. But this element named for the sun is used in lasers for eye surgery, to cooling agents in nuclear reactors.
Helium has a number of characteristics that make it special, Szalewicz says. It is the most stable of all the elements and has the lowest boiling point. It becomes a fluid at temperatures close to absolute zero while most other materials are a solid. In fact, helium is a liquid even at absolute zero and becomes a solid only at high pressure.
Helium is the only substance that exhibits superfluidity, and it will not burn or react with other elements, which is one reason why it is used as a pressurizing agent for liquid fuel rockets in space exploration, among many other applications.
“Of all the elements, helium is closest to the ideal gas,” Szalewicz says. “Two helium atoms form the weakest bound diatomic molecule. All the properties of temperature, for example, which is a measure of the kinetic energy of particles in matter, can be modeled if the force acting between a pair of helium atoms is known.
“This has been the subject of extensive activity,” Szalewicz notes, “as accurate knowledge of the pair potential of helium is of importance in several branches of science, including low-temperature condensed matter physics, spectroscopy, and metrology, which is the science of measurement.”
The research team used complex numerical techniques to compute several physical effects in the helium pair potential which are rarely considered in molecular physics. These effects include couplings of the electronic and nuclear motions, contributions due to Einstein's special relativity, and the so-called quantum electrodynamics contributions due to the interaction of the electrons with the electromagnetic field.
The scientists predict that the binding energy of two molecules of helium, chemically referred to as a “dimer,” is 6,790 times smaller than the potential depth, and the average separation between the atoms is 47 angstroms compared to the typical chemical bond length of about 1 angstrom. The estimated uncertainties of the theoretical results are an order of magnitude smaller than the best experimental ones, they report.
The thermophysical properties of gaseous helium computed from this potential now will be used to calibrate the apparatus for measuring properties such as viscosities or the speed of sound.
“These calculations should lead to new, better standards for quantities such as temperature or pressure,” Szalewicz says. “Continuous improvement of metrology standards is important for progress in experimental science, as well as in many industrial applications.”
The research was supported in part by grants from the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Science Foundation.
Tracey Bryant | EurekAlert!
New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers
21.04.2017 | California Institute of Technology
Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy
21.04.2017 | Stockholm University
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...
Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.
A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy