By Alex Bellury, Senior Writer
Monday, February 26, 2018
(NEW FRONTIER NEWS)- Scientists from the Harvard University and Vienna University of Technology have been experimenting with the empty space of atoms seeing if they can stumble upon something interesting. Scientists were using what’s known as a Rydberg atom, which is an excited atom big enough to fit thousands of Hydrogen atoms.
“The average distance between the electron and its nucleus can be as large as several hundred nanometres – that is more than a thousand times the radius of a hydrogen atom,” Professor Joachim Burgdörfer of Vienna University said.
To create a Rydberg atom, scientists use a laser to supercool an atom close to absolute zero (the coldest temperature possible, though impossible to reach) and make the electrons move into a wide orbit. This is so slow that scientists can observe electrons moving, compared to their normal speed that reaches the speed of light.
After this, the Rydberg atom is packed full of strontium atoms, taking up almost no space. Over 170 strontium atoms are put inside the Rydberg atom. This is possible because strontium atoms don’t have an electric charge.
Though this is an extraordinary discovery, the atom has to be kept at near absolute zero, or the atom gets too hot and deteriorates.
“It is a highly unusual situation,” said Shuhei Yoshida, one of the scientists conducting the experiment. “Normally, we are dealing with charged nuclei, binding electrons around them. Here, we have an electron, binding neutral atoms.”
This discovery encourages scientists to find more artificial matter they can create.
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Loffhagen, Matthew. (February 2018). World’s First Mega-Giant Atom Creates Revolutionary New State of Matter. Outer Places. The United States. https://www.outerplaces.com/science/item/17887-first-mega-giant-atom-creates-new-state-matter
Staff Writer. (February 2018). Exotic state of matter: An atom full of atoms. EurekAlert. The United States. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-02/vuot-eso022318.php