The First Image Ever of a Hydrogen Atom's Orbital Structure

You’re looking at is the first direct look of an atom’s electron orbits which can be mathematically described by Atom's Real wave function! To take the photo, Scientists utilized A quantum microscope — an incredibly Innovative device that helps scientists to look into the quantum world.!

An orbital structure is the space in an atom that’s occupied by an electron. But describing these super-microscopic properties of matter, scientists have to depend on wave functions — a mathematical way of describing the quantum states of particles,  basically, quantum physicists use formulas like the Schrödinger equation to describe these states, often coming up with complex numbers and Strange graphs!

Up until this point, scientists have never been able to actually observe the electron orbit. Trying to get an atom’s exact position or the momentum of its alone electron direct observations have this obstacle of  quantum coherence. So to get a full quantum state We need tool that can statistically average many measurements over time And to magnify this results scientists needs the quantum microscope — a device that uses photoionization microscopy to visualize atomic structures directly.

Aneta Stodolna of the FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics (AMOLF) in the Netherlands describes how she and her team get a picture of the nodal structure of an electronic orbital of a hydrogen atom placed in a static (dc) electric field in Physical Reviw Letter..

The First Image Ever of a Hydrogen Atom's Orbital Structure

After zapping the atom with laser pulses, ionized electrons escaped and followed a particular trajectory to a 2D detector (dual microchannel plate [MCP] detector placed perpendicular to the field itself). There are many trajectories that can be taken by the electrons to reach the same point on the detector, thus Scientist got the set of interference patterns — patterns that shows the nodal structure of the wave function.

And the they have done this by using an electrostatic lens that magnified the outgoing electron wave more than 20,000 times.

Image: Examples of four atomic hydrogen states. The middle column shows the experimental measurements, while the column at right shows the time-dependent Schrödinger equation calculations.


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