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B Is it possible to squash an atom?

  1. Sep 26, 2016 #1
    What would happen to an atom or molecule if you put it in a vice and tightened the vice as tight as possible?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 26, 2016 #2

    ZapperZ

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    Now, you ARE aware, aren't you, that the "vice" itself consists of "atoms and molecules"? Think about this a bit more and see if you still want to ask this question.

    Zz.
     
  4. Sep 26, 2016 #3

    bhobba

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  5. Sep 27, 2016 #4

    CWatters

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    Depending on how and how much you compress atoms you end up with a plasma of particles or even a black hole.
     
  6. Sep 27, 2016 #5
    I think the question was more about the title of the thread and not the specifics in the question. I'm pretty sure the OP wants to know if it is possible to squash an atom.
     
  7. Sep 27, 2016 #6

    ZapperZ

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    I disagree, because the nature of the question CAN play a significant role in the answer.

    For example, let's say by "squashing", I mean to confine something to smaller and smaller spatial dimension. Now THAT is now a well-defined concept. I can easily look at what happens in the simplest case of a 1D potential well. What happen if I make the width of the potential well smaller and smaller? This matches my meaning of "squashing".

    But this is not that simple with an "anvil", or any kind of a vice. Can you make any sense out of something like that? I can't.

    Zz.
     
  8. Sep 27, 2016 #7
    Aren't experiments at CERN squashing atoms until they break?
     
  9. Sep 27, 2016 #8
    Again, I'm pretty sure the OP is asking "if you take an atom and exert an extremely large force compressing it, what will happen as the magnitude of the force increases?" Whether you agree with this interpretation of the question or not, you should answer it. The OP definitely wants an answer, not an arguement about what he/she means. I'd answer that question myself but I do not know the answer.
     
  10. Sep 27, 2016 #9

    ZapperZ

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    But you are not aware that even using your interpretation of that, it makes it also equally vague and ambiguous. What exactly is this "large force"? I can put an atom in a very large electric field, and thus, exert a large force on it. How does that "squash" the atom? All it has done is possibly create a polarization on the charge distribution around the atom. Is this squashing?

    Before a question can be answered, you have to fully understand what is being asked. If you think you can get away with a vague understanding of a question and simply dive head first into answering it, try it sometime when you take an exam.

    Zz.
     
  11. Sep 27, 2016 #10

    Nugatory

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    If that's the question, Bhobba and cwatters answered it in #3 and #4 of this thread.
     
  12. Sep 27, 2016 #11

    Nugatory

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    No.

    It's clear that OP is asking about somehow compressing atoms into a smaller spatial volume, and the interactions that take place in a collider are quite different from that.

    If you want to understand more about the interactions that happen in a collider and why "squashing" is a poor and misleading description, you may want to start your own thread on that topic.
     
  13. Sep 27, 2016 #12

    Nugatory

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    Mentor's note: a number of offtopic posts have been removed from this thread.
     
  14. Sep 28, 2016 #13
    Well, it depends on what you mean by squashing. As you increase the pressure and density of atoms, eventually you form bonds and antibonds between atoms. The shape of the electron cloud changes due to the bonds and antibonds, and maybe you could interpret that as being "squashed". Antibonds have higher energy than bonds but they form because electrons have nowhere else to go due to Pauli exclusion principle. In an antibond, the electron clouds don't overlap (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antib...media/File:Dihydrogen-LUMO-phase-3D-balls.png), but they sort of push each other apart. Now, if you have atoms on all sides, then the antibonds will be more complex, but generally, the electron clouds will form patterns that refuse to overlap.

    There's a limit to how much you can squash atoms. Under extreme pressures, like in white dwarf stars, we don't really have atoms but a plasma of nuclei and electrons. Just for fun, let's pretend it was made up of atoms of hydrogen. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_dwarf gives a white dwarf density of 1*10^9 kg/m^3. The Bohr radius is about 5.29*10^-11 meter. If we take this as the "radius" of a spherical hydrogen atom, then we get a volume of 6.21*10^-31 m^3. If we assume the hydrogen atoms are closely-packed spheres (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Close-packing_of_equal_spheres), then my calculation gives a density of 3640 kg/m^3. Clearly much less than white dwarf densities. There isn't nearly enough space for non-overlapping electron clouds-- so electrons are pushed into higher momenta. (Going to higher momenta opens up more phase space for electron clouds.) But high momenta electrons can't be treated as "bound" to any nuclei, so it's a plasma and not really a molecule.
     
  15. Sep 28, 2016 #14
    Depending on how and how much you compress atoms you end up with a plasma of particles or even a black hole.

    mentor note: ...removed unrelated link...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 28, 2016
  16. Sep 29, 2016 #15
    Thanks for the responses. Perhaps it was a bit of a silly and obvious question.
     
  17. Sep 29, 2016 #16
    Not obvious at all.
     
  18. Sep 29, 2016 #17
    Yes, I was really asking if it is possible to squash an atom, to break it up using pressure.
     
  19. Sep 29, 2016 #18
    You missed a whole deleted debate on what your question meant.
     
  20. Sep 29, 2016 #19
    damn.
     
  21. Sep 29, 2016 #20
    I will create a new thread on it.
     
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