Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Strength in Numbers: Physicists Identify New Quantum State Allowing Three -- but Not Two -- Atoms to Stick Together

04.07.2012
A Kansas State University-led quantum mechanics study has discovered a new bound state in atoms that may help scientists better understand matter and its composition.

The yet-unnamed bound state, which the physicists simply refer to as "our state" in their study, applies to three identical atoms loosely bound together -- a behavior called three-body bound states in quantum mechanics. In this state, three atoms can stick together in a group but two cannot. Additionally, in some cases, the three atoms can stick together even when any two are trying to repel each other and break the connection.

"It's really counterintuitive because not only is the pair interaction too weak to bind two atoms together, it's also actively trying to push the atoms apart, which is clearly not the goal when you want things to stick together," said Brett Esry, university distinguished professor of physics at Kansas State University and the study's lead investigator.

Esry, along with Kansas State University postdoctoral researcher Nicolais Guevara and University of Colorado-Boulder colleague Yujun Wang -- a Kansas State University graduate -- calculated the quantum state in their study, "New Class of Three-Body States," which was recently published in Physical Review Letters.

The state is similar to Efimov three-body states, a loosely-bound quantum state first predicted by Russian physicist Vitaly Efimov in the early 1970s. Physicists were able to first observe Efimov three-body states more than 30 years later through an experiment with ultracold atomic gases in 2006. These gases are one-billionth of a degree kelvin above absolute zero -- a temperature that only exists in a handful of laboratories in the world. Esry said similar ultracold atomic gases are needed to observe their new quantum state as well since it can only exist at this temperature.

While Efimov three-body states only occur in ultracold conditions with atoms classified as bosons, the state found by Esry and colleagues applies to both bosons and fermions -- the two particle types that all matter can be classified as.

Additionally, the new quantum state exists in a pocket between short-ranged and long-ranged interactions. Short- and long-ranged interactions -- or forces -- are the distance at which the particle interactions are effective. With a long-ranged force, the particles have a greater distance between them and do not have to touch to interact and influence each other. With a short-ranged force, however, the particles must be in much closer proximity and interact similar to billiard balls colliding with one another, Esry said. The Efimov three-body states only exist for short-ranged interactions.

"The three-body states that we found are formed by interactions that are neither short- nor long-ranged," Esry said. "Instead, they lie right at the border between the two. So, more than anything, finding this new quantum state fills in a knowledge gap about three-body systems and quantum mechanics, which have been studied for centuries by physicists -- including Sir Isaac Newton studying the Earth, moon and sun."

Scientists may also find uses for the quantum state in experiments with ultracold atomic gases.

"That's really the nature of basic research," Esry said. "We're trying things that hopefully will pay off for somebody 20 years or longer down the line. Efimov had to wait 35 years to see his states actually be seen and used as a way to understand these three-body systems. We hope we don't have to wait that long."

Esry and colleagues will continue exploring this quantum state and to uncover how combinations of bosons and fermions behave in it.

Brett Esry | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.k-state.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab
15.08.2018 | American Institute of Physics

nachricht Early opaque universe linked to galaxy scarcity
15.08.2018 | University of California - Riverside

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: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

Im Focus: Lining up surprising behaviors of superconductor with one of the world's strongest magnets

Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur

What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

2018 Work Research Conference

25.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Staying in Shape

16.08.2018 | Life Sciences

Diving robots find Antarctic seas exhale surprising amounts of carbon dioxide in winter

16.08.2018 | Earth Sciences

Protein droplets keep neurons at the ready and immune system in balance

16.08.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>