A New Type of Molecule

June 21, 2010
A schematic drawing of a new type of molecule with relatively gigantic dimensions, designed in theory by CfA scientists. The new molecule could be made in ultra-cold situations when a normal molecule is bound to an atom in a large excited state, for example as shown here with potassium-rubidium (KRb; the blue and green spots) joined to an excited large atom of rubidium (the red spot and gray electron cloud). Credit: S. Rittenhouse and H. Sadeghpour

(PhysOrg.com) -- A Rydberg atom is one with an electron that spends most of its time far from the nucleus. Rydberg atoms, which are normally artificially produced, can have dimensions thousands of times larger than typical atoms or simple molecules.

Because these giants push the envelope of our understanding of atomic physics they are interesting in their own right, but scientists also wonder whether their extreme properties might be useful.

Two CfA scientists, Seth Rittenhouse and Hossein Sadeghpour, used the known properties of Rydberg atoms to "invent," theoretically, a new kind of gargantuan molecule and to predict its properties.

They paired a giant rubidium Rydberg atom with a normal molecule of potassium-rubidium. Like most , the potassium-rubidium molecule has a slight internal charge separation induced by the different charges in its two nuclei.

That charge structure enabled the scientists to show that it should bind to the Rydberg atom to produce a molecule even larger than the giant atom.

Moreover, this amazing new form of matter should have an internal structure that retains information about the charge separation of both the Rydberg atom and its molecular partner, a property that could be useful in making a quantum "bit" that might someday be used in quantum computers.

Although this invention now needs to be realized in a laboratory, the research has already demonstrated that a new class of molecules might in principle result from combining giant in carefully tailored configurations.

Explore further: Scientists Make First Observation of Unique Rydberg Molecule

Related Stories

Scientists Make First Observation of Unique Rydberg Molecule

April 28, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- When Enrico Fermi investigated the Rydberg atom in the '30s, he never imagined that the giant atoms could form molecules. Later, in the '70s and '80s, theoretical physicist Chris Greene predicted that Rydberg ...

Scientists discover giant Rydberg atom molecules

June 24, 2009

A group of University of Oklahoma researchers led by Dr. James P. Shaffer, Homer L. Dodge Department of Physics and Astronomy, have discovered giant Rydberg molecules with a bond as large as a red blood cell. Determining ...

Giant Rydberg atoms confined in a micro-glass cell

January 14, 2010

Rydberg atoms are highly sensitive atoms, as one electron is only loosely bound. Compared to 'normal' atoms which are one tenth of a nanometer in size those giant atoms are ~100 nanometers large. Due to their sensitivity ...

Trapping giant Rydberg atoms for faster quantum computers

May 6, 2010

In an achievement that could help enable fast quantum computers, University of Michigan physicists have built a better Rydberg atom trap. Rydberg atoms are highly excited, nearly-ionized giants that can be thousands of times ...

Recommended for you

Exploring the physics of a chocolate fountain

November 24, 2015

A mathematics student has worked out the secrets of how chocolate behaves in a chocolate fountain, answering the age-old question of why the falling 'curtain' of chocolate surprisingly pulls inwards rather than going straight ...

Biomedical imaging at one-thousandth the cost

November 23, 2015

MIT researchers have developed a biomedical imaging system that could ultimately replace a $100,000 piece of a lab equipment with components that cost just hundreds of dollars.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.