By Controlling Individual Atoms, Researchers Watch Chemical Reactions at the Quantum Level
Researchers at Cambridge University have observed chemical reactions at the quantum level for the first time ever by isolating individual atoms and cooling them to incredibly low temperatures.
What's the Latest Development?
By isolating two individual atoms at extremely low temperatures, researchers have observed how chemical reactions function at the quantum level for the first time. Researchers at the University of Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory were able to measure the chemical interactions between individual, ultracold ytterbium ions and rubidium atoms. While two atoms will naturally repel each other, scientists observed that "when an atom and a positive ion approach slowly, the ion's charge draws part of the atom's electron cloud towards it, leading to an attractive force between them."
What's the Big Idea?
Chemical reactions typically involve huge numbers of atoms or molecules, making it nearly impossible to discern what occurs at the quantum level, but the researchers' new method, slowing atoms down by cooling them, allowed them to observe the details. A surprising observation was that atomic nuclei, previously assumed to play no role in chemical reactions, actually did make a difference to the reaction outcome depending on the electronic spin and the nuclear spin. "...this experiment provides an excellent demonstration of how manipulation of quantum states can lead to chemical reactions at very low temperatures."
Photo credit: Shutterstock.com
The way that you think about stress can actually transform the effect that it has on you – and others.
- Stress is contagious, and the higher up in an organization you are the more your stress will be noticed and felt by others.
- Kelly McGonigal teaches "Reset your mindset to reduce stress" for Big Think Edge.
- Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Three scientists publish paper proving that not Venus but Mercury is the closest planet to Earth
- Earth is the third planet from the Sun, so our closest neighbour must be planet two of four, right?
- Wrong! Neither Venus nor Mars is the right answer.
- Three scientists ran the numbers. In this YouTube video, one of them explains why our nearest neighbour is... Mercury!
The blood of horseshoe crabs is harvested on a massive scale in order to retrieve a cell critical to medical research. However, recent innovations might make this practice obsolete.
- Horseshoe crabs' blue blood is so valuable that a quart of it can be sold for $15,000.
- This is because it contains a molecule that is crucial to the medical research community.
- Today, however, new innovations have resulted in a synthetic substitute that may end the practice of farming horseshoe crabs for their blood.
The distance between the American dream and reality is expressed best through literature.
- Literature expands our ability to feel empathy and inspires compassion.
- These ten novels tackle some facet of the American experience.
- The list includes a fictional retelling of the first Native American to graduate from Harvard and hiding out in inner city Newark.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.