Sign up FAST! Login

First Image Ever of a Hydrogen Atom's Electron Cloud

Stashed in: Awesome, Singularity!, Magnify!

To save this post, select a stash from drop-down menu or type in a new one:

George Dvorak explains:

What you’re looking at is the first direct observation of an atom’s electron orbital — an atom's actual wave function! To capture the image, researchers utilized a new quantum microscope — an incredible new device that literally allows scientists to gaze into the quantum realm.

An orbital structure is the space in an atom that’s occupied by an electron. But when describing these super-microscopic properties of matter, scientists have had to rely on wave functions — a mathematical way of describing the fuzzy quantum states of particles, namely how they behave in both space and time. Typically, quantum physicists use formulas like the Schrödinger equation to describe these states, often coming up with complex numbers and fancy graphs.

Up until this point, scientists have never been able to actually observethe wave function. Trying to catch a glimpse of an atom’s exact position or the momentum of its lone electron has been like trying to catch a swarm of flies with one hand; direct observations have this nasty way of disrupting quantum coherence. What’s been required to capture a full quantum state is a tool that can statistically average many measurements over time.

But how to magnify the microscopic states of a quantum particle? The answer, according to a team of international researchers, is the quantum microscope — a device that uses photoionization microscopy to visualize atomic structures directly.

Description of Photoionization Microscopy... not even a wikipedia article on it yet!

TLDR: Blasting away the electron shells of an atom (i think with other electrons) in such a way as to generate a specific energy photon, repeatedly, until all or most of the points of the wave have been rendered into an image.

Thanks, my son will love this.  His favorite game is where he's an electron, and I'm a proton, and he runs around me in circles. He's still hoping to make me so dizzy I throw up...

That joke works on many levels. Including subatomic.

You May Also Like: