Monday, May 20, 2013

A "Quantum Micrsocope" To Look At The Hydrogen Wavefunction

The hydrogen wavefuction is one of the few systems that we can solve analytically. That is why we teach them in undergraduate QM classes. Yet, the ability to actually view such wavefunction isn't trivial and is part of the fundamental aspect of QM.

This latest work looks at the nodal structure of a hydrogen atomic orbitals using photoionization. In the process, the authors have provided a significant step in developing a "quantum microscope".

Writing in Physical Review Letters, Aneta Stodolna, of the FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics (AMOLF) in the Netherlands, and her colleagues demonstrate how photoionization microscopy directly maps out the nodal structure of an electronic orbital of a hydrogen atom placed in a dc electric field. This experiment—initially proposed more than 30 years ago—provides a unique look at one of the few atomic systems that has an analytical solution to the Schrödinger equation. To visualize the orbital structure directly, the researchers utilized an electrostatic lens that magnifies the outgoing electron wave without disrupting its quantum coherence. The authors show that the measured interference pattern matches the nodal features of the hydrogen wave function, which can be calculated analytically. The demonstration establishes the microscopy technique as a quantum probe and provides a benchmark for more complex systems.

The link above provides free access to the paper.


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