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Breakthrough laser experiment reveals liquid-like motion of atoms in an ultra-cold cluster
Date:7/25/2014

A new study by researchers from the University of Leicester has furthered our understanding of how tiny nanosystems function, unlocking the potential to create new materials using nanosized 'building blocks'.

The study, which has been published in the prestigious academic journal Physical Review Letters, used a novel laser technique to examine in rich detail the structure and internal atomic motion of a small cluster containing an acetylene molecule and a single helium atom.

The technique excited single clusters and generated rotational wavepackets, which are composed of multiple waves illustrating the individual motion of atoms. The team were able to track these wavepackets in real time up to one nanosecond over many rotations.

The wavepacket method used by the team provides greater detail of the structure of clusters than traditional spectroscopic techniques, improving our understanding of small systems and allowing for the creation of new man-made materials in a lab setting.

The research forms part of the PhD thesis of University of Leicester student Gediminas Galinis, a key contributor of the project, and has been performed in collaboration with seven research groups from six European institutions who provided vital expertise and were led by the University of Leicester Physics group.

Gediminas said: "During this project we used a combination of laser beams to excite rotations in small clusters comprising a molecule and a helium atom. We found that the helium atom rotates and vibrates almost freely, occupying nearly the entire volume within the cluster. Hence, the cluster does not have a rigid structure - it behaves rather like a liquid.

"The extension of this technique to other complex systems where weak interactions take place is theoretically possible. The approach may also have the potential for exploring liquids, such as superfluid helium, where the binding forces are similarly sensitiv
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Contact: Gediminas Galinis
gg97@leicester.ac.uk
University of Leicester
Source:Eurekalert  

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Breakthrough laser experiment reveals liquid-like motion of atoms in an ultra-cold cluster
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