Already Weird Atoms Get Stranger, May Hold Ability to Bond with ‘Nothing’

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According to (This article and its images were originally posted on Live Science September 20, 2018 at 07:01AM.)

(Cover Image)

A computer model of a ghost bond. The green ball represents the nucleus of the Rydberg atom, while the blue ball represents where the Rydberg’s electron most likely is. It also represents where the “ghost” atom is, or where the groundstate atom would be.

Credit: Matt Eiles

Getting upset over nothing? Well, you’re not being ridiculous: Some atoms may form actual bonds with “nothing.”

While a typical chemical bond requires two entities, there is one kind of atom that may be able to bond to “ghost” atoms or those that don’t exist, according to a new paper published Sept. 12 in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Just as our solar system’s planets orbit around the sun, electrons orbit around an atom’s nucleus. The farther out their orbit is, the higher the electron’s energy. But with an energy boost, electrons can often hop orbits — and some go the distance.

Rydberg atoms have one electron that jumps to a distant orbit, far away from the nucleus. “Basically, any atom in the periodic table can become a Rydberg atom,” senior author Chris Greene, a distinguished professor of physics and astronomy at Purdue University, told Live Science. All that’s needed is to shine a laser on an atom, giving its electrons a bit of energy. [Wacky Physics: The Coolest Little Particles in Nature]

Rydberg atoms “are unusual from a chemistry standpoint,” Greene said. That’s because an excited electron that has hopped very far away from the atom’s nucleus can collide over and over with an electron in a nearby ground-state atom — or one where all its electrons are in the lowest energy state possible. Each time it collides, it attracts the ground-state atom bit by bit, eventually trapping it in what is called trilobite bond.

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This article and its images were originally posted on [Live Science] September 20, 2018 at 07:01AM. Credit to the original author and Live Science | ESIST.T>G>S Recommended Articles Of The Day.

 

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