A long molecule made of light and matter was measured
In physics, the light that acts as a “glue” between the atoms has been captured. It has been shown that light can actually polarize atoms by making them sticky.
Physicists have managed to imprison the light that glues the atoms . Some atoms share their negatively charged electrons (simpler gases) with complex hydrocarbons floating in space. In addition, some atoms are attracted by differences in their overall charge. Electromagnetic fields can alter the arrangement of charges surrounding the atom. It has been shown with ultracold rubidium atoms that light can actually polarize atoms making them sticky at times.
We were able for the first time to polarize several atoms together in a controlled way, creating a measurable attractive force between them.
Matthias Sonnleitner, physicist at the University of Innsbruck
This is a very weak attractive force, so you have to conduct the experiment very carefully to be able to measure it. If the atoms have a lot of energy and move quickly, the attractive force disappears immediately. This is why a cloud of ultracold atoms was used.
Wien Mira Maiwöger, atomic physicist of the Technical University of Vienna
The study team captured a 5,000-atom cloud under a gold-coated chip using a magnetic field . Then he cooled the atoms to temperatures close to absolute zero. Subsequently, the atoms hit by a laser experienced a number of various attractions. To detect this attraction, scholars needed to make precise calculations.
When the magnetic field was turned off, the atoms fell free for 44 milliseconds, before reaching the laser light field. In the fall, the cloud naturally expanded. The researchers were thus able to make measurements at various densities. The answer obtained was that it was not only the incoming light that affected the atoms, but also that scattered by the other atoms . When it touched the atoms it gave them different polarity : they were attracted or repelled by a greater intensity of light. Furthermore, this could help explain the formation of molecules in space.
- Physicists Finally Measure a Long Theorized Molecule Made From Light And Matter (sciencealert.com)