A New Type of Molecule

Jun 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: Information storage for the next generation of plastic computers

Related Stories

Scientists discover giant Rydberg atom molecules

Jun 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

Jan 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 ...

Recommended for you

How to test the twin paradox without using a spaceship

17 hours ago

Forget about anti-ageing creams and hair treatments. If you want to stay young, get a fast spaceship. That is what Einstein's Theory of Relativity predicted a century ago, and it is commonly known as "twin ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Progress in the fight against quantum dissipation

(Phys.org) —Scientists at Yale have confirmed a 50-year-old, previously untested theoretical prediction in physics and improved the energy storage time of a quantum switch by several orders of magnitude. ...

Simplicity is key to co-operative robots

A way of making hundreds—or even thousands—of tiny robots cluster to carry out tasks without using any memory or processing power has been developed by engineers at the University of Sheffield, UK.

Meteorites yield clues to Martian early atmosphere

(Phys.org) —Geologists who analyzed 40 meteorites that fell to Earth from Mars unlocked secrets of the Martian atmosphere hidden in the chemical signatures of these ancient rocks. Their study, published ...