Researchers at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory developed an extreme physical object, a molecule that attracts more electrons than it can keep until it explodes.
Molecular black hole
This object dubbed a molecular black hole caught researchers by surprise as they weren’t expecting something quite so intense.
Scientists used the world’s most powerful X-ray laser to remove almost all the electrons from the largest atom in a molecule, from the inside out.
Within 30 femtoseconds, more than 50 electrons from the rest of the molecule came rushing in, which quickly led to the explosive demise of the molecule.
The molecular black hole is not just really cool as a new discovery, but it provides clues on how X-ray lasers affect molecules.
The researchers looked at three samples, Individual xenon atoms, each with 54 electrons, and two molecules containing a single iodine atom, which has 53 electrons. By using the powerful laser, they started kicking electrons out of the atoms.
In the xenon, the atom was left with only the more strongly bound electrons, but the iodine behaved differently.
In the molecule, the iodine attracting electrons from the hydrogen and carbon atoms as well. Iodine was expected to lose 47 electrons, but the iodine in the small molecule lost 54 electrons.
We think the effect was even more important in a larger molecule than in the smaller one, but we don’t know how to quantify it yet, lead author Artem Rudenko, said.
We estimate more than 60 electrons were broken out, but we don’t actually know where it stopped. We could not detect all the fragments that flew off as the molecule fell apart to see how many electrons were missing.
The X-ray pulses are 100 times more intense than if you concentrate all the sunlight we receive on Earth onto a single thumbnail.