Liquid-like motion of atoms revealed through laser experiment

Posted by ap507 at Jul 25, 2014 11:50 AM |
Physics and Astronomy research team unlocks insights into creation of new nano-materials using nanosized 'building blocks'
Liquid-like motion of atoms revealed through laser experiment

A section of the optical path setup used to direct the laser beams through the laboratory is shown. Credit: Dr Mark Watkins

A new study by researchers from the Department of Physics and Astronomy has furthered our understanding of how nanosystems work, 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, providing greater detail of the structure of clusters and allowing for the creation of new man-made materials in a lab setting.

The research forms part of the PhD thesis of 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.

The work paves the way for future studies of nanoscale systems, allowing for a better understanding of how the properties of materials evolve with size and complexity, such as with an increasing number of atoms added to a cluster.