Decoding electron dynamics

Electron motion in atoms and molecules is of fundamental importance to many physical, biological and chemical processes. Exploring electron dynamics within atoms and molecules is essential for understanding and manipulating ...

New method measures super-fast, free electron laser pulses

New research shows how to measure the super-short bursts of high-frequency light emitted from free electron lasers (FELs). By using the light-induced ionization itself to create a femtosecond optical shutter, the technique ...

Cold molecular clouds as cosmic ray detectors

The ionization of the neutral gas in an interstellar molecular cloud plays a key role in the cloud's evolution, helping to regulate the heating and cooling processes, the chemistry and molecule formation, and coupling the ...

New CubeSat will observe the remnants of massive supernovas

Scientists at CU Boulder are developing a satellite about the size of a toaster oven to explore one of the cosmos' most fundamental mysteries: How did radiation from stars punch its way out of the first galaxies to fundamentally ...

Breakthrough made toward more powerful particle accelerators

An international team of researchers, affiliated with UNIST has for the first time demonstrated the ionization cooling of muons. Regarded as a major step in creating more powerful particle accelerators, this new muon accelerator ...

Simulations reveal galaxy clusters details

Inspired by the science fiction of the spacefaring Romulans of Star Trek, astrophysicists have used XSEDE-allocated supercomputers to develop cosmological computer simulations called RomulusC, where the 'C' stands for galaxy ...

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Ionization

Ionization is the process of converting an atom or molecule into an ion by adding or removing charged particles such as electrons or other ions. This is often confused with dissociation. A substance may dissociate without necessarily producing ions. As an example, the molecules of table sugar dissociate in water (sugar is dissolved) but exist as intact neutral entities. Another subtle event is the dissociation of sodium chloride (table salt) into sodium and chlorine ions. Although it may seem as a case of ionization, in reality the ions already exist within the crystal lattice. When salt is dissociated, its constituent ions are simply surrounded by water molecules and their effects are visible (e.g. the solution becomes electrolytic). However, no transfer or displacement of electrons occurs whatsoever. Actually, the chemical synthesis of salt involves ionization.

The process of ionization works slightly differently depending on whether an ion with a positive or a negative electric charge is being produced. A positively charged ion is produced when an electron bonded to an atom (or molecule) absorbs the proper amount of energy to escape from the electric potential barrier that originally confined it, thus breaking the bond and freeing it to move. The amount of energy required is called the ionization energy. A negatively charged ion is produced when a free electron collides with an atom and is subsequently caught inside the electric potential barrier, releasing any excess energy.

In general, ionization can be broken down into two types: sequential ionization and non-sequential ionization. In classical physics, only sequential ionization can take place; refer to the Classical ionization section for more information. Non-sequential ionization violates several laws of classical physics; refer to the Quantum ionization section.

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