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Science is poised to take a "quantum leap" as more mysteries of how atoms behave and interact with each other are unlocked.
The field of quantum physics, with its complex mathematical equations for predicting the interactions and energy levels of atoms and electrons, already has made possible many technologies we rely on every day—from computers and smartphones, to lasers and magnetic resonance imaging. And experts say revolutionary advancements are destined to come.
Leap - Researchers - University - Delaware - Area
But to take a giant leap, you have to be physically fit, and researchers at the University of Delaware have found an area of quantum physics that could use some more calisthenics, you might say. The research, performed by doctoral student Muhammed Shahbaz with his adviser, Prof. Krzysztof Szalewicz in the UD Department of Physics and Astronomy, was published recently in Physical Review Letters, the journal of the American Physical Society.
Just like people, atoms can be attracted to each other, or, well, be repulsed. Take argon—the third most abundant gas in Earth's atmosphere. This non-reactive gas has a variety of uses, from protecting historical documents to preventing the tungsten filament from corroding in fluorescent lights. When two argon atoms are far away from one another, they will be attracted to each other until they get down to about 3.5 angstroms and then they will repel each other. It's as though once they've gotten a really good look at each other, they're ready to move on.
Decades - Theory - DFT - Structure - Atoms
But that's not what physicists found about two decades ago when they tested the density-functional theory (DFT), which is now widely used to model and predict the electronic structure of atoms. Most versions of DFT were either predicting no attraction or only a very weak one. Where did the failure lie? The attraction between argon atoms originates from "dispersion interactions" between electrons, as the motions of...
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