It’s the first time chemists have manipulated two atoms to create a compound
For the first time, researchers have played matchmaker between two specific atoms, joining them together to form a molecule.
Typically, chemists make molecules by mixing up many constituent atoms, some of which stick to each other to form the desired compounds. In the new, supercontrolled chemical reaction, researchers trapped a single sodium atom in one optical tweezer — a device that snares small particles in a laser beam — and a cesium atom in another tweezer. Both atoms were cooled to less than one ten-thousandth of a degree above absolute zero.
The researchers moved these tweezers closer together until the laser beams overlapped, allowing the sodium and cesium atoms to collide. A third laser shot a pulse of light at the atoms to provide a boost of energy that helped the atoms bond into a sodium cesium molecule, researchers report online April 12 in Science.