Atomic Threesomes Explained

This interesting article from the Nature News website explains the extraordinary quantum chemical phenomenon of Efimov states – when three atoms or particles come together in a way that allows them to interact when two wouldn’t be able to.

In 2006, the theory became reality when a group of researchers observed the state in caesium atoms. However, these states are extremely fragile, and can only be observed at the very lowest temperatures possible experimentally. The interesting news in this latest find is that an excited state of the caesium triplet has been found which, interestingly, is larger than its predecessor, whilst still retaining its 3-atom shape. The sizes of these states are massive – with excited states reaching micrometre sizes.

Although complicated, this is fascinating science, which could be useful in explaining or predicting a range of unusual scientific phenomena, such as understanding the nature of the nucleus of the 11-Li isotope.

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