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How Can We Experimentally Determine Why Hydrogen Atoms Are Absorbed on Metal Surfaces?

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Bünermann,  Oliver
Department of Dynamics at Surfaces, MPI for Biophysical Chemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Abstract
Although very light weight, hydrogen atoms have a high probability to be absorbed by a metal surface upon collision. In this video, OLIVER BÜNERMANN explains collision experiments carried out to determine why this is the case. During the experiment, they shot a hydrogen atom beam at a gold surface and at an insulator, measured the speed and direction of the atoms bouncing back from each surface and compared the results. The hydrogen atoms scattered from the gold surface suffered a greater energy loss than the one scattered from the insulator. This difference indicates that translational energy carried in the hydrogen atom is transferred into electronic excitations in the metal leading to the high probability of absorption. The experiment results match the predictions of the theoretical model explained by Alexander Kandratsenka.