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Imaging resonances in low-energy NO-He inelastic collisions

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Science  13 Nov 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6262, pp. 787-790
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad2356

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Watching collisions in the slow lane

Quantum mechanics aims to “micromanage” the details of collisions between atoms and molecules. However, it's hard to discern all the subtleties under high-energy conditions. Vogels et al. slowed down two intersecting beams of helium atoms and nitric oxide (NO) molecules to a relative crawl in order to characterize the collisions precisely. The data revealed short-lived resonances that matched theoretical predictions remarkably well—a striking feat on both sides, given the challenge of accurately modeling NO's unpaired electron. The study highlights chemists' increasingly sophisticated understanding of collision dynamics.

Science, this issue p. 787