Cool calculations for cold atoms: New theory of universal three-body encounters

2 septiembre 2014

Chemical reactions drive the mechanisms of life as well as a million other natural processes on earth. These reactions occur at a wide spectrum of temperatures, from those prevailing at the chilly polar icecaps to those at work churning near earth’s core. At nanokelvin temperatures, by contrast, nothing was supposed to happen. Chemistry was expected to freeze up. Experiments and theoretical work have now show that this is not true. Even at conditions close to absolute zero atoms can interact and manage to form chemical bonds. Now the first full theory that accounts for interactions at nano-kelvin temperatures — in those situations where 3-atom states can form even while all 2-atom states are unstable has been developed.