Scientists slow down a chemical reaction 100 billion times to find out what happens: ScienceAlert
Scientists have been able to observe a common interaction in quantum chemistry for the first time, using a quantum computer to shadow the process at a speed 100 billion times slower than normal.
The conic intersection is known as interactions They have been known for a long time, but usually more than just Femto seconds Quadrillionths of a second – making direct observations impossible.
Instead, a research team from the University of Sydney in Australia and the University of California, San Diego, monitored the reaction using a charged particle trapped in a field, allowing them to follow a version of the process that lasted relatively forever.
“Using our quantum computer, we built a system that allowed us to slow down chemical dynamics from femtoseconds to milliseconds,” says Vanessa Olaya Agudelo, from the University of Sydney’s School of Chemistry.
“This has allowed us to make meaningful observations and measurements. This hasn’t been done before.”
Conical junctions describe the rapid transfer of energy between potential energy surfaces within molecules. As such, they are best described using the language and mathematics of quantum physics, including the overlapping fields and changing waves of particle behavior.
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In chemical terms, quantum interactions control light reactions in all kinds of scenarios, such as photosynthesis and reactions in the human eye.
What made this current research possible was the special way in which the scientists were able to map the electron’s state change to the features of the system using a confined ion quantum computer, where electric fields are trapped and lasers are manipulating.
Once this complex process was implemented, the team was then able to slow everything down so it could be observed. Scientists compare this to making aerodynamic observations on an airplane wing in a wind tunnel.
“Our experiment was not a digital approximation of the process, but rather a direct analog observation of rapidly unfolding quantum dynamics that we can observe,” says Christophe Valahu, from the University of Sydney’s School of Physics.
Since conical junctions are very common in photochemistry, the new research will be extremely useful in many areas of research. It shows how new insights can be found through researchers from different fields of science working together.
In general, quantum computers hold a lot of promise when it comes to simulating all kinds of reactions and interactions. A better understanding of the fastest and smallest events means we have a better idea of how to take advantage of them.
“By understanding these fundamental processes within and between molecules, we can open up a new world of possibilities in materials science, drug design, or solar energy harvesting,” says Olaya Agudelo.
“It could also help improve other processes that depend on the interaction of molecules with light, such as how smog is created or how the ozone layer is damaged.”
The research has been published in Nature’s chemistry.