Harvard Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology Kang-Kuen Ni and colleagues have combined two atoms for the first time into what researchers call a dipolar molecule. The work is described in a new paper published in Science.
Researchers say the discovery holds great promise for the future of quantum computing, as the dipolar molecule constitutes a new type of qubit, the smallest unit of quantum information, which could lead to more-efficient devices.
[...] "It's true that for every reaction," Ni said, "atoms and molecules combine individually at the microscopic level. What we have done differently is to create more control over it. We grab two different species of individual atoms with optical tweezers and shine a pulse of laser to bind them. The whole process is happening in an ultra-high vacuum, with very low air density."
Though short-lived, the reaction proved that a molecule could form by using the laser stimulus, rather than additional atoms, as the catalyst.