For the first time, scientists have been able to watch electrons move in an atom's outer shell, in a breakthrough with major implications for our understanding of chemical processes.
Using ultra-short flashes of laser light, scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Germany and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., were able to time oscillations between valence electrons' quantum states.
Chemical reactions happen because of the dynamics of valence electrons, the ones in the outermost orbit of an atom. If you can watch them move, you can understand their mechanics and learn how they combine with other atoms to make up everything around us. But electrons move pretty fast, so this has been impossible until now.
The team used lasers that can work in the 100-attosecond time scale -- an attosecond is 10-18 seconds, a quintillionth of a second. They measured the movement of valence electrons in a form of ionized krypton that had one electron removed.
Berkeley Lab's news site provides some in-depth descriptions, but basically what happened is that scientists measured the continued flopping of electrons between two quantum states. These valence shell oscillations cycled in a little over six femtoseconds. Using much faster attosecond laser pulses, the team was able to essentially capture this oscillation in action. The work is reported in this week's edition of the journal Nature.
The Berkeley Lab test simply proves that scientists can see these electrons move. But the finding can be applied to any problem in the physics and chemistry of liquids, solids, biological systems -- basically everything, according to Stephen Leone of Berkeley Lab's Chemical Sciences Division.
"(It will) allow us to unravel processes within and among atoms, molecules, and crystals on the electronic timescale," he says.
As Berkeley Lab's news writer notes, this would have been previously impossible with the "comparatively languorous femtosecond timescale."
First. UC Berkeley FTW!
This is pretty exciting and I imagine that this is going to revolutionize the field of quantum mechanics in some way or another.
That laser might have killed Schrödinger's cat.
A strobe light can freeze a fan blade to show where something was and allow a prediction of it's future state/position in time & space. This laser is a super-strobe at the atomic level and may bring about the demise of the uncertainty principle.
someone get out the pen and start re-writing those textbooks
Oh Hiesenberg </3
So what does this mean for the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle?
The Heisenberg uncertainty principle still remains intact because we cannot be sure that by mesuaring the outcome we may have in some way changed it. For instance if some energy was to be transferred from the photon to the electron the electrons future path could change.
Not to mention that a Femtosecond is 1000x an attosecond so they are seeing it at basically .0167% validity, which is really low to reiterate it in words. This is not seeing it move, nor is it breaking any quantum I feel like. This is like putting less than one point on a graph and trying to draw am intricate line. Honestly, there are some much better articles on here right now.
an intricate line* (:
I agree - it will not change anything about the uncertainty principle. In quantum physics, particles move in "wave packets" and if you calculate and define the position, it will still have an indefinite wavelength (meaning indefinite momentum). You can see this by looking at the "wavefunction collapse" equations.
I would like to see their data (more importantly their margin of error values) as well - I'll have to try to find it in Nature.
As far as measuring and "seeing" the e- go between its quantum states, this is great. It can also bring us closer to knowing the "in-between" stuff as well. This would be interesting if it could be applied to the current research on 'supersolids".