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 This view, however, is now seen to be outdated.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 Electrons use the zebra crossing
17.12.2018 | Universität Stuttgart

nachricht Data storage using individual molecules
17.12.2018 | Universität Basel

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: Data storage using individual molecules

Researchers from the University of Basel have reported a new method that allows the physical state of just a few atoms or molecules within a network to be controlled. It is based on the spontaneous self-organization of molecules into extensive networks with pores about one nanometer in size. In the journal ‘small’, the physicists reported on their investigations, which could be of particular importance for the development of new storage devices.

Around the world, researchers are attempting to shrink data storage devices to achieve as large a storage capacity in as small a space as possible. In almost...

Im Focus: Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.

Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

When a fish becomes fluid

17.12.2018 | Studies and Analyses

Progress in Super-Resolution Microscopy

17.12.2018 | Life Sciences

How electric heating could save CO2 emissions

17.12.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>