Scientists from the Australian National University have been able to observe and document electrons that actually change the direction of their orbit.
It has been known, theoretically, that this was possible, but it was considered such a rare event that many believed it would not be possible to actually observe this shift take place, until now.
|Electrons capable of changing orbits: global study|
A team of international scientists including Australians have observed electrons outside of their regular orbit for the first time.
The common image of an electron shows them orbiting a nucleus on a foxed path, similar to planets orbiting the sun, but the scientists, including those from the Australian National University (ANU), observed them in a different, high-energy orbit.
Anatoli Kheifets, the leader of ANU’s involvement, said the findings were the result of work by hundreds of scientists after the phenomenon was first predicted by quantum theory 30 years ago.
“Scientists never thought they could observe such a rare event,” he said in a media release on Monday.
“There is no simple way to look inside a molecule to see what an electron is doing there.”
In order to make the discovery, the team took a precise snapshot of pairs of electrons in a hydrogen molecule.
They used an x-ray beam to knock an electron out of the molecule, causing its atoms to split.
“Because the two electrons in the molecule are entangled, the one that was knocked out carried very precise information about the quantum state of its counterpart,” Kheifets said.