Researchers Create ‘Ghost’ Chemical Bond


Researchers from Purdue University suggested that electromagnetic pulses applied to an atom could cause one of its electrons to imaginarily bond to an empty point in space

A chemical bond requires a minimum of two consenting atoms. However, a proposed experiment by Purdue University might reduce that requirement to just one atom. The proposed trilobite bond is formed by carefully manipulating a Rydberg atom, an atom with one electron in a highly excited state. Trilobite bonds are usually observed in special types of diatomic molecules that are characterized by one of the atoms in a Rydberg state and the other in its ground state. These trilobite molecules are unusually large (around 1000 times larger than typical diatomic molecules) as the Rydberg’s pumped-up outer electron occupies a very distant orbital.

The researchers through numerical analyses showed that the electronic wave function of a Rydberg hydrogen atom can be sculpted to match that of a trilobite molecule by a precise sequence of alternating electric and magnetic field pulses. This results in localization of the excited electron to a point in space, which is dozens of nanometers from the nucleus. The wave function remains for at least 200 μs that temporarily bonds the Rydberg atom to a nonexistent ‘ghost’ atom.

The researchers stated that further experimentalists are required to find a way to accommodate the stringent requirements for synchronizing the pulses and blocking external fields. The system could be observed via electron- or x-ray-scattering experiments when these drawbacks are reduced and a ghost bond is produced. Although the applications of this findings are abstract, the researchers suggested that such a preformed bond would modify chemical reaction rates in some way. The research was published in the journal Physical Review Letters on September 12, 2018.


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