Quantum oscillations of nitrogen atoms in uranium nitride

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DOIResolve DOI: http://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms2117
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TypeArticle
Journal titleNature Communications
Volume3
Article number1124
Pages# of pages: 7
AbstractThe vibrational excitations of crystalline solids corresponding to acoustic or optic one-phonon modes appear as sharp features in measurements such as neutron spectroscopy. In contrast, many-phonon excitations generally produce a complicated, weak and featureless response. Here we present time-of-flight neutron scattering measurements for the binary solid uranium nitride, showing well-defined, equally spaced, high-energy vibrational modes in addition to the usual phonons. The spectrum is that of a single atom, isotropic quantum harmonic oscillator and characterizes independent motions of light nitrogen atoms, each found in an octahedral cage of heavy uranium atoms. This is an unexpected and beautiful experimental realization of one of the fundamental, exactly solvable problems in quantum mechanics. There are also practical implications, as the oscillator modes must be accounted for in the design of generation IV nuclear reactors that plan to use uranium nitride as a fuel.
Publication date
PublisherNature Publishing Group
LanguageEnglish
AffiliationNRC Canadian Neutron Beam Centre; National Research Council Canada
Peer reviewedYes
NPARC number21268026
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Record identifierd079ca7c-6010-463f-8e75-5701ce499964
Record created2013-04-03
Record modified2016-05-09
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