Coming soon: LHC for molecules


By Rachel Courtland CHARGED particles are easy to accelerate in the Large Hadron Collider because they respond to electromagnetic fields. Now researchers have made an LHC for electrically neutral molecules that could help probe chemical reactions. Ammonia is a neutral molecule, but its electrons are unevenly distributed, effectively making one end positive and the other negative. Peter Zieger at the Fritz Haber Institute in Berlin, Germany, and colleagues used this asymmetry to pull a stream of ammonia around a hula-hoop-sized tube. Electrodes placed around the tube generated an electric field of varying strength that guided the molecules, allowing them to whip around the tube more than 1000 times (Physical Review Letters, DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.105.173001). “I think this is a very important development,” says Roman Krems of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada,
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