Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Strength in numbers: Physicists identify new quantum state allowing three -- but not two -- atoms to stick together

Date:
July 3, 2012
Source:
Kansas State University
Summary:
A recent 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.

Abstract rendering.
Credit: © John Denison / Fotolia

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.

Related Articles


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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Kansas State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Nicolais Guevara, Yujun Wang, B. Esry. New Class of Three-Body States. Physical Review Letters, 2012; 108 (21) DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.108.213202

Cite This Page:

Kansas State University. "Strength in numbers: Physicists identify new quantum state allowing three -- but not two -- atoms to stick together." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 July 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120703142515.htm>.
Kansas State University. (2012, July 3). Strength in numbers: Physicists identify new quantum state allowing three -- but not two -- atoms to stick together. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120703142515.htm
Kansas State University. "Strength in numbers: Physicists identify new quantum state allowing three -- but not two -- atoms to stick together." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120703142515.htm (accessed December 19, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Friday, December 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Building Google Into Cars

Building Google Into Cars

Reuters - Business Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) — Google's next Android version could become the standard that'll power your vehicle's entertainment and navigation features, Reuters has learned. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
AP Review: Nikon D750 and GoPro Hero 4

AP Review: Nikon D750 and GoPro Hero 4

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) — What to buy an experienced photographer or video shooter? There is some strong gear on the market from Nikon and GoPro. The AP's Ron Harris takes a closer look. (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) — The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
3D Printed Cookies Just in Time for Christmas

3D Printed Cookies Just in Time for Christmas

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) — A tech company in Spain have combined technology with cuisine to develop the 'Foodini', a 3D printer designed to print the perfect cookie for Santa. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins