Research Article

Collisional Breakup in a Quantum System of Three Charged Particles

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Science  24 Dec 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5449, pp. 2474-2479
DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5449.2474

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Abstract

Since the invention of quantum mechanics, even the simplest example of the collisional breakup of a system of charged particles, e + H → H+ + e + e (where e is an electron and H is hydrogen), has resisted solution and is now one of the last unsolved fundamental problems in atomic physics. A complete solution requires calculation of the energies and directions for a final state in which all three particles are moving away from each other. Even with supercomputers, the correct mathematical description of this state has proved difficult to apply. A framework for solving ionization problems in many areas of chemistry and physics is finally provided by a mathematical transformation of the Schrödinger equation that makes the final state tractable, providing the key to a numerical solution of this problem that reveals its full dynamics.

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