Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Experiments challenge fundamental understanding of electromagnetism

Date:
November 28, 2012
Source:
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Summary:
A cornerstone of physics, quantum electrodynamics, may require some updates if the findings of recent experiments on highly charged ions are confirmed.

Observations made with NIST's Electron Beam Ion Trap indicate that in ions with a strongly positive charge, electrons can behave in ways inconsistent with quantum electrodynamics (QED) theory, which describes electromagnetism. While more experiments are needed, the data could imply that some aspects of QED theory require revision.
Credit: Image courtesy of NIST

A cornerstone of physics may require a rethink if findings at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are confirmed. Recent experiments suggest that the most rigorous predictions based on the fundamental theory of electromagnetism -- one of the four fundamental forces in the universe, and harnessed in all electronic devices -- may not accurately account for the behavior of atoms in exotic, highly charged states.

Related Articles


The theory in question is known as quantum electrodynamics, or QED, which physicists have held in high regard for decades because of its excellent track record describing electromagnetism's effects on matter. In particular, QED has been especially useful in explaining the behavior of electrons, which orbit every atomic nucleus. But for all of QED's successes, there are reasons to believe that QED may not provide a complete picture of reality, so scientists have looked for opportunities to test it to ever-increasing precision.

One way to test parts of QED is to take a fairly heavy atom -- titanium or iron, for example -- and strip away most of the electrons that circle its nucleus. "If 20 of titanium's 22 electrons are removed, it becomes a highly charged ion that looks in many ways like a helium atom that has been shrunk to a tenth its original size," says NIST physicist John Gillaspy, a member of the research team. "Ironically, in this unusual state, the effects of QED are magnified, so we can explore them in more detail."

Among the many things QED is good for is predicting what will happen when an electron orbiting the nucleus collides with a passing particle. The excited electron gets bumped up momentarily to a higher energy state but quickly falls back to its original orbit. In the process, it gives off a photon of light, and QED tells what color (wavelength) that photon will have. The NIST team found that electrons in highly charged helium-like ions that are excited in this fashion give off photons that are noticeably different in color than QED predicts.

While the results -- obtained using NIST's Electron Beam Ion Trap Facility -- are interesting enough on their own to warrant publication, Gillaspy says he hopes the finding will stimulate others to measure the emitted photons with even greater accuracy. Currently, the NIST team is preparing to release the results of measurements of other colors of light emitted from the exotic atoms that bolster the initial findings.

"What the NIST experiment found is interesting enough that it merits attention," says Jonathan Sapirstein, a professor of physics at the University of Notre Dame. "Independent calculations should be done to confirm the theory, and other experiments should also confirm the findings. However, if no errors are found in the theory and the NIST experiment is correct, some physics outside of QED must be present."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. C. Chantler, M. Kinnane, J. Gillaspy, L. Hudson, A. Payne, L. Smale, A. Henins, J. Pomeroy, J. Tan, J. Kimpton, E. Takacs, K. Makonyi. Testing Three-Body Quantum Electrodynamics with Trapped Ti^{20 } Ions: Evidence for a Z-dependent Divergence Between Experiment and Calculation. Physical Review Letters, 2012; 109 (15) DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.109.153001

Cite This Page:

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). "Experiments challenge fundamental understanding of electromagnetism." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121128112151.htm>.
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). (2012, November 28). Experiments challenge fundamental understanding of electromagnetism. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121128112151.htm
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). "Experiments challenge fundamental understanding of electromagnetism." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121128112151.htm (accessed November 26, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

NASA's First 3-D Printer In Space Creates Its First Object

NASA's First 3-D Printer In Space Creates Its First Object

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) The International Space Station is now using a proof-of-concept 3D printer to test additive printing in a weightless, isolated environment. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) Innovative recycling project in La Paz separates city waste and converts plastic garbage into school furniture made from 'plastiwood'. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Who Will Failed Nuclear Talks Hurt Most?

Who Will Failed Nuclear Talks Hurt Most?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Nov. 25, 2014) With no immediate prospect of sanctions relief for Iran, and no solid progress in negotiations with the West over the country's nuclear programme, Ciara Lee asks why talks have still not produced results and what a resolution would mean for both parties. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Flying Enthusiast Converts Real-Life Aircraft Cockpit Into Simulator

Flying Enthusiast Converts Real-Life Aircraft Cockpit Into Simulator

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 25, 2014) A virtual flying enthusiast converts parts of a written-off Airbus aircraft into a working flight simulator in his northern Slovenian home. Jim Drury 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