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Calculated Electronic State of the Excited Electron of a Silicon Nanocrystal

A model of the calculated electronic state of the excited electron of a silicon nanocrystal

A model of the calculated electronic state of the excited electron of a silicon nanocrystal.

This plot shows where the two most energetic electrons of the silicon nanocrystal "orbit." One might think that electrons orbit the nucleus of an atom, like the planets orbit the sun of our solar system, but this is not what happens. The orbits that electrons use to travel around the nucleus of an atom are quite complicated in shape, not just circles like with our planets, and each orbit can hold no more than two electrons. When atoms come together to form a molecule like this silicon nanocrystal, the electrons that previously were orbiting each atom now travel throughout the entire molecular structure, getting close to multiple atoms and forming even more complicated shapes. The blue and yellow shapes are like clouds within which an electron could be found. The reason for these complicated orbits is explained in quantum physics and is based on the quantum nature of matter at very small sizes. This research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation (grants DMR 01-02668 and DMR 01-21361). [One of three related images. See Next Image.] (Year of image: 2002)

Credit: Zack Helms, Quantum Simulations Laboratory, North Carolina State University; simulations completed using computational resources provided by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

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