Manipulating electron orbits

Looks like we’ve got nothing better to do in the Newtonian Universe; so lets go lower, ahmm, where the itty bitty electrons are swinging about the atomic nucleus.

Despite normally being represented by waves and living in an ‘electron cloud’ of probability around the nucleus, teams in Austria and the US have demonstrated electrons can be made to act in much the same way as planetary systems. This is an example of cross beam technology in which the orbital period frequency of the electron around the nucleus is matched with the oscillating frequency of a tuned laser. The laser created a localized electronic state moving in a near-circular orbit about the nucleus. Extending and reducing orbital size is done by modulating the laser’s frequency. Both teams managed to create an atom up to about the size of a human blood cell during the experiment. This orbital size management technique might possibly be used in the future to develop memory storage. Think of it, memory storage at near atomic level! We’re not there yet, however. The electron reverts to its natural state in a few cycles after the controlling force is turned off. Another consideration, if one likens this electron orbit situation to that of Jupiter and it’s trojan asteroids, then memory integrity takes a serious back seat. Current computer simulations suggest that about 17 per cent of the Trojans are unstable enough to slip out of their bounded orbits and go wandering. This is an area of physics known as ‘Mesoscopic’ where the boundaries of the quantum and macroscopic worlds meet. Future experiments will involve multiple atoms and more sophisticated monitoring techniques. Next step is to see if the technique can be used on multiple atoms simultaneously, and to monitor how they interact with each other during operations. And one might add that here lies an opportunity to use the potential of mesoscopic physics to explore the boundaries between the quantum and macroscopic worlds. This mesoscopic frontier, always known but just recently probed and sandwiched between classical physics and quantum theory extremes, is considered the red-headed stepchild of the physics frontier. Yet it has huge potential. Objects in this region range from the atomic size all the way up to 1,000 nanometers; nearly the size of an average bacterium. Investigating this transistion region may allow us to complete the barrier between quantum theory and Newtonian classical physics. In addition, it wouldn’t hurt that potentially usable findings may pop up having applications of benefit in both arenas.


About Deborah Leddon

Vegetarian Mother and Wife, Scientist at UTD CSS, passionate about my family, animal rights, the outdoors and my violin.
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