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Q & A: squeezing atoms

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Most recent answer: 05/16/2013
Q:
If it is possible to compress an atom,then what about the electrons in the atom.They may not have sufficient space for them to rotate around the nucleus.Then due to the lack of sufficient space,is there any possibilty of electrons to come out of the atom and get isolated.Please answer this.
- Prudhvi Raj Borra (age 16)
Machilipatnam,Andhra Pradesh,India.
A:
It is possible to compress an atom, specifically meaning to crowd the electrons in closer to the nucleus than normal. They aren\'t really \'rotating around\' but instead acting in the strange quantum way that things act on a small scale. If they\'re compressed more than usual, that raises their kinetic energy- again for entirely quantum mechanical reasons. It also lowers their potential energy, but not by as much. So if they\'re compressed enough, they can have enough energy to escape the atom altogether, once whatever is squeezing them is removed. That\'s pretty much as you guessed.

Mike W.

(published on 05/16/2013)

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