Eli5. What happen when two atoms collide?



Eli5. What happen when two atoms collide?

In: Physics

Before you read: I am only 18 and my answer is based off my knowledge so far:

Depends on the kinds of atoms and how hard they collide.

For “slow moving” and large relative mass atoms they never actually collide, as they are interacted on eachother by fundamental forces. For charged particles like electrons or protons you have the electrostatic repulsion/attraction. Atoms are neutrally charged, so this will not affect them, however perhaps there is some repulsion due to electron fields which would prevent most of the atoms from getting close. The other fundamental force in play is the strong and weak nuclear force (gravity is negligable at this scale). If the atoms came within 0.5fm they would massively repel but this is beyond nuclear scale, let alone atomic.

I suppose if the atoms had a large enough energy, i.e. kinetic, potential or an associating high frequency (wave-like behaivour of particles) you would see large deflections, possibly defraction patterns.

If two atoms collided at enormous energy then they could possibly fuse, but this can only really take place in stars where the force of collision is created by the intense gravity of the star in the core.

TLDR: depends on their mass and energy

In what context? In a particle collider? This is very vague question that can’t be answered without some more from you on what exactly you’re asking.

99.99999% of the time- absolutely nothing other than some kinetic energy is exchanged, one atom bumping the other and their movements affecting each other.

For anything interesting to happen, they must be collided together with immense force and pressure. For the atoms to touch (and this is a very wide generality), we’re talking the rough energy of a fast baseball pitch. PER ATOM PAIR.

If they hit hard enough, they can fuse, releasing massive energies by the breaking of bonds of the strong nuclear force. This is what powers the sun.

Depends on the energy and particular atoms involved. They can bounce off each other, undergo some chemical reaction and then the products are emitted, undergo a nuclear reaction and emit the product ions (the elecrons would be at least partly scattered at such energies), or undergo more exotic reactions to produce high energy particles. Each next step takes more energy.

Atoms are not used because they are neutral, so it’s hard to get them going fast – you really want something charged so you can accelerate it with EM fields.