# Can we squeeze atoms?

Lets consider few water molecules (or monoatomic noble gas or $H^+$ ions or electron gas) to be present inside a vessel, now if we enclose the vessel with certain hard material which could act as piston (assume that vessel is completely covered). Now, if we apply tremendous force on the piston (and no molecules are rushing out of the covering), can we watch the molecules to be squeezing?

I have heard about particle accelerators, where we start with electrons or protons, accelerate them to high energy and smash into the target. In general, heavier the particle we want to produce, the higher must be energy of collision.

It seems that keeping the high energy particles stationary and then squeezing them (if possible) with highly accelerated pistons from either side, is better than colliding high energy particles head-on.

The problem in not using pistons, I must think, must be because of our inability to accelerate the massive pistons to a high extent as like accelerating particles itself. But, the head-on collision of pistons with high energy particles in between, will be better than head-on collision of particles itself, I think.

In case of head on collision of particles I think, we can accelerate them to high extent, but we can't expect effective collision.

Balancing both mass and acceleration of piston, can we have the same result, as we get in particle accelerators? If we can, can we avoid constructing those large particle accelerators like Stanford linear accelerator center (see the picture)?

Can we create such piston squeezer? I know there might be some difficulties? What can we do to overcome it?

Sometimes, I might have misunderstood, if so, pardon me and explain.

-
A big problem is that you couldn't really get to a high enough pressure to match the effects of a real particle accelerator. Modern materials just don't have that kind of strength (I haven't done a calculation, but I imagine the strength requirements are billions of times higher than anything which currently exists). – DumpsterDoofus Apr 23 '14 at 12:17
Maybe you should look up some numbers to see what kind of energies a particle accelerator deals with. You're underestimating those energies. and you're overestimating the size of sub-atomic particles. – Hasan Apr 23 '14 at 12:20
electrons would ionize molecules, i.e. occupy energy levels above the ground state for the molecule. No, atomic distances cannot be squeezed by any stretch to the extent you are imagining. and again, there are 10^23 atoms per mole. a piston would disperse the energy to all those zillions of atoms on the surfaces. – anna v Apr 23 '14 at 13:09
Put simply, no, you can't do this. But if you're asking this question it's likely you don't have the background to understand why this is so, and that thus you may possibly be willing to spend large amounts of money attempting to do what can't be done. And I am here to help you. Look, you're going to spend the money anyways, right? And in the end you're going to find out that what you're doing is impossible, right? So let's just get rid of all the time-and-money wasting, cut to the chase, and just Do The Right Thing - send the money to me. Simple, efficient, and quick. Let me know. Thanks. – Bob Jarvis Apr 23 '14 at 17:22
Pistons have surfaces. Surfaces are made up out lattices of atoms. The kinetic energy will be dissipated on all the surface atoms and individual electrons will get a tiny amount of it, maybe enough to send them sideways but certainly not enough to display particle scattering properties. Do me a favor and forget this piston business. – anna v Apr 23 '14 at 17:37

The experiments at LHC hit protons on each other at total energy of 7 TeV.

In comparison, a flying moscquito has a kinetic energy of

1 TeV: a trillion electronvolts, or 1.602×10−7 J, about the kinetic energy of a flying mosquito[12]

Could one collide two flying bees of 3.5TeV kinetic energy and get a proton proton collision? i.e. give the total energy of the bee on a proton of each bee's proboscis?

The answer is "no" because macroscopic objects as the bee's proboscis have a surface composed by a very large number of atoms and the contact of the two proboscises will disperse the energy among those atoms much before it can reach one proton.

So it is true that macroscopic objects have a lot of kinetic energy in TeV, but to get it on an elementary particle level is a problem that has not been solved. Actually, maybe, with nanotechnology something might be devised, with magnetic fields and electric fields and God knows what, but certainly it will not be with pistons.

-
(+1)Thank you for the answer. "Actually, maybe, with nanotechnology something might be devised, with manetic [caught you with the spelling mistake:)!] fields and electric fields and God knows what, but certainly it will not be with pistons." Its good that there is a possibility w.r.t nanotechnology. If we can have either piston in opposite direction moving with kinetic energy 3.5Tev, can we have results? – Immortal Player Apr 23 '14 at 13:15
Sorry I didn't see your above comment, according to which it is not possible w.r.t piston even if we have them moving with kinetic energy 3.5Tev:) – Immortal Player Apr 23 '14 at 13:36
"So you're telling me there's a chance..." – iamnotmaynard Apr 23 '14 at 15:18
@iamnotmaynard yes, I believe that with nanotechnology there is a chance for a "table top" accelerator. – anna v Apr 23 '14 at 15:35
@iamnotmaynard nice reference. – Jake Sellers Apr 23 '14 at 17:06

Can we squeeze atoms?

Yes. High pressure changes the wavefunctions of electrons in atoms. See for example Accurate Wavefuctions for the Confined Hydrogen Atom at High Pressures.

One effect of this is to increase the rate of electron capture by the nucleus, since s electrons will spend more time at/in the nucleus at high pressure.

See the lecture: Pressure and Chemistry Dependent Electron Capture for more information.

You definitely will not reach the energy levels of an accelerator however, as others have explained.

-
I think you didn't answer my last question in the explanatory part. (+1) – Immortal Player Apr 23 '14 at 12:51

Degenerate matter is essentially squezed atoms.
But it is perfectly squeezed atoms, all of them.
And real squezed in the sense of static pressure.

In cores of stars, the pressure get's so high - only after the end of hydrogen burning - that the electrons can no longer stay withe the nuclei.

(That can even happen further regarding various subatomic particles,squeezing even what was left from the atoms)

-

Once you get up to relativistic speeds, there's no such thing as a "hard" material. If you could get a pair of macroscopic pistons to collide at the location of a test atom, the dynamics of the collision would be dominated by collisions between the atoms in the pistons.

You can collide a light particle with a heavy nucleus — this is what's done at RHIC and LHC in the proton-gold and proton-lead collisions. And you can collide two heavy nuclei — gold-gold, or lead-lead. But the heavy-nucleus collisions are quite messy. Even if you could make the beams dense enough to make a gold-proton-gold collision (which you couldn't), a gold nucleus has 197 nucleons in it; it'd be pretty tough to distinguish between a gold-gold collision involving 394 nucleons and a gold-proton-gold collision involving 395 nucleons.

-

The short answer would be not really (at least the way you've described it). The problem with any sort of physical piston is that high energy particles vibrate and will collide with the piston. This would have several undesirable effects. Firstly, it could damage the piston depending on how its made. Secondly, the collision would heat up the piston causing the particles to lose energy.

However, it is possible to use magnetic fields or lasers to confine particles. These paricles can be confined at high energies (essentially squeezed as you put it). This is the idea behind nuclear fusion. Note fusion particle energies tend to be on the order of $keV$ compared to $7~TeV$ at the LHC so it can't really tell you the same physics.

An alternative idea of squeezing atons would be a Bose-Einstien condensate or similar. This is almost the complete opposite in that the gas is cooled to very near absolute zero. In this case all the particles occupy the lowest possible quantum state so in one sense they are as squeezed as possible.

-