Atomic threesomes form new quantum state to do what two can not

By | July 4, 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.

via July 3 | News Releases | News and Editorial Services | Kansas State University.

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