Physicists predict molecular states of cold atoms

Physicists predict molecular states of cold atoms

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A research study published in the journal Nature Physics,
theoretically predicted molecular states of chemical reactions
that involved three atoms at ultracold temperatures. The
study conducted by Yujun Wang, Research Associate with the
James R. Macdonald Laboratory at Kansas State University,
and Paul Julienne at the University of Maryland, developed
a robust yet simple model that theoretically predicted the molecular states of atomic reactions at ultracold temperatures.

Their model, which is considered the best available, accounts
for spin physics of the atoms as well as the Van der Waals
force—the attractive long-range forces between the forming
molecules. These findings can guide research in chemical
engineering, molecular physics and other fields because the
model gives scientists a largely accurate idea of how the atoms
will bind to form a molecule. Additionally, their work may
help scientists understand the Efimov effect. The Efimov effect,
which was first predicted in the early 1970s, is when two
atoms that normally repel each other become loosely bound
when a third atom is introduced. The result is three atoms that
all stick together despite trying to repel each other—a reaction
that defies conventional knowledge.