Positronium hydride

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Positronium hydride ball and stick model Positronium-hydride-3D-balls.png
Positronium hydride ball and stick model

Positronium hydride, or hydrogen positride [1] is an exotic molecule consisting of a hydrogen atom bound to an exotic atom of positronium (that is a combination of an electron and a positron). Its formula is PsH. It was predicted to exist in 1951 by A Ore, [2] and subsequently studied theoretically, but was not observed until 1990. R. Pareja, R. Gonzalez from Madrid trapped positronium in hydrogen laden magnesia crystals. The trap was prepared by Yok Chen from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. [3] In this experiment the positrons were thermalized so that they were not traveling at high speed, and they then reacted with H ions in the crystal. [4] In 1992 it was created in an experiment done by David M. Schrader and F.M. Jacobsen and others at the Aarhus University in Denmark. The researchers made the positronium hydride molecules by firing intense bursts of positrons into methane, which has the highest density of hydrogen atoms. Upon slowing down, the positrons were captured by ordinary electrons to form positronium atoms which then reacted with hydrogen atoms from the methane. [5]



PsH is constructed from one proton, two electrons, and one positron. The binding energy is 1.1±0.2 eV. The lifetime of the molecule is 0.65 nanoseconds. The lifetime of positronium deuteride is indistinguishable from the hydride. [4]

The decay of positronium is easily observed by detecting the two 511 keV gamma ray photons emitted in the decay. The energy of the photons from positronium should differ slightly by the binding energy of the molecule. However, this has not yet been detected. [1]


The structure of PsH is as a diatomic molecule, with a chemical bond between the two positively charged centres. The electrons are more concentrated around the proton. [6] Predicting the properties of PsH is a four body Coulomb problem. Calculated using the stochastic variational method, the size of the molecule is larger than dihydrogen, which has a bond length of 0.7413 Å. [7] In PsH the positron and proton are separated on average by 3.66 a0 (1.94 Å). The positronium in the molecule is swollen compared to the positronium atom, increasing to 3.48 a0 compared to 3 a0. Average distance of the electrons from the proton is larger than the dihydrogen molecule, at 2.31 a0 with the maximum density at 2.8 au. [1]


Due to its short lifetime, establishing the chemistry of positronium hydride poses difficulties. Theoretical calculations can predict outcomes. One method of formation is through alkali metal hydrides reacting with positrons. Molecules with dipole moments greater than 1.625 debye are predicted to attract and hold positrons in a bound state. Crawford's model predicts this positron capture. In the case of lithium hydride, sodium hydride and potassium hydride molecules, this adduct decomposes and positronium hydride and the alkali positive ion form. [8]

Similar compounds

PsH is a simple exotic compound. Other compounds of positronium are possible by the reactions e+ + AB PsA + B+. [9] Other substances that contain positronium are di-positronium and the ion Ps with two electrons. Molecules of Ps with normal matter include halides and cyanide. [6]

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Proton</span> Subatomic particle with positive charge

A proton is a stable subatomic particle, symbol
, H+, or 1H+ with a positive electric charge of +1 e (elementary charge). Its mass is slightly less than that of a neutron and 1,836 times the mass of an electron (the proton–electron mass ratio). Protons and neutrons, each with masses of approximately one atomic mass unit, are jointly referred to as "nucleons" (particles present in atomic nuclei).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Positronium</span> Bound state of an electron and positron

Positronium (Ps) is a system consisting of an electron and its anti-particle, a positron, bound together into an exotic atom, specifically an onium. Unlike hydrogen, the system has no protons. The system is unstable: the two particles annihilate each other to predominantly produce two or three gamma-rays, depending on the relative spin states. The energy levels of the two particles are similar to that of the hydrogen atom. However, because of the reduced mass, the frequencies of the spectral lines are less than half of those for the corresponding hydrogen lines.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Atomic radius</span> Measure of the size of its atoms

The atomic radius of a chemical element is a measure of the size of its atom, usually the mean or typical distance from the center of the nucleus to the outermost isolated electron. Since the boundary is not a well-defined physical entity, there are various non-equivalent definitions of atomic radius. Four widely used definitions of atomic radius are: Van der Waals radius, ionic radius, metallic radius and covalent radius. Typically, because of the difficulty to isolate atoms in order to measure their radii separately, atomic radius is measured in a chemically bonded state; however theoretical calculations are simpler when considering atoms in isolation. The dependencies on environment, probe, and state lead to a multiplicity of definitions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Antihydrogen</span> Exotic particle made of an antiproton and positron

Antihydrogen is the antimatter counterpart of hydrogen. Whereas the common hydrogen atom is composed of an electron and proton, the antihydrogen atom is made up of a positron and antiproton. Scientists hope that studying antihydrogen may shed light on the question of why there is more matter than antimatter in the observable universe, known as the baryon asymmetry problem. Antihydrogen is produced artificially in particle accelerators.

An exotic atom is an otherwise normal atom in which one or more sub-atomic particles have been replaced by other particles of the same charge. For example, electrons may be replaced by other negatively charged particles such as muons or pions. Because these substitute particles are usually unstable, exotic atoms typically have very short lifetimes and no exotic atom observed so far can persist under normal conditions.

In chemistry, a hydride is formally the anion of hydrogen (H). The term is applied loosely. At one extreme, all compounds containing covalently bound H atoms are called hydrides: water (H2O) is a hydride of oxygen, ammonia is a hydride of nitrogen, etc. For inorganic chemists, hydrides refer to compounds and ions in which hydrogen is covalently attached to a less electronegative element. In such cases, the H centre has nucleophilic character, which contrasts with the protic character of acids. The hydride anion is very rarely observed.

Metallic hydrogen is a phase of hydrogen in which it behaves like an electrical conductor. This phase was predicted in 1935 on theoretical grounds by Eugene Wigner and Hillard Bell Huntington.

The Antihydrogen Trap (ATRAP) collaboration at the Antiproton Decelerator facility at CERN, Geneva, is responsible for the AD-2 experiment. It is a continuation of the TRAP collaboration, which started taking data for the PS196 experiment in 1985. The TRAP experiment (PS196) pioneered cold antiprotons, cold positrons, and first made the ingredients of cold antihydrogen to interact. Later ATRAP members pioneered accurate hydrogen spectroscopy and observed the first hot antihydrogen atoms.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Helium hydride ion</span> Chemical compound

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hydrogen anion</span> Negative ion of hydrogen

The hydrogen anion, H, is a negative ion of hydrogen, that is, a hydrogen atom that has captured an extra electron. The hydrogen anion is an important constituent of the atmosphere of stars, such as the Sun. In chemistry, this ion is called hydride. The ion has two electrons bound by the electromagnetic force to a nucleus containing one proton.

Di-positronium, or dipositronium, is an exotic molecule consisting of two atoms of positronium. It was predicted to exist in 1946 by John Archibald Wheeler, and subsequently studied theoretically, but was not observed until 2007 in an experiment performed by David Cassidy and Allen Mills at the University of California, Riverside. The researchers made the positronium molecules by firing intense bursts of positrons into a thin film of porous silicon dioxide. Upon slowing down in the silica, the positrons captured ordinary electrons to form positronium atoms. Within the silica, these were long lived enough to interact, forming molecular di-positronium. Advances in trapping and manipulating positrons, and spectroscopy techniques have enabled studies of Ps–Ps interactions. In 2012, Cassidy et al. were able to produce the excited molecular positronium angular momentum state.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Positron annihilation spectroscopy</span> Non-destructive spectroscopy

Positron annihilation spectroscopy (PAS) or sometimes specifically referred to as Positron annihilation lifetime spectroscopy (PALS) is a non-destructive spectroscopy technique to study voids and defects in solids.

The dihydrogen cation or hydrogen molecular ion is a cation with formula H+
. It consists of two hydrogen nuclei (protons) sharing a single electron. It is the simplest molecular ion.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chromium(I) hydride</span> Chemical compound

Chromium(I) hydride, systematically named chromium hydride, is an inorganic compound with the chemical formula (CrH)
. It occurs naturally in some kinds of stars where it has been detected by its spectrum. However, molecular chromium(I) hydride with the formula CrH has been isolated in solid gas matrices. The molecular hydride is very reactive. As such the compound is not well characterised, although many of its properties have been calculated via computational chemistry.

Iron(II) hydride, systematically named iron dihydride and poly(dihydridoiron) is solid inorganic compound with the chemical formula (FeH
(also written ([FeH
)n or FeH
). ). It is kinetically unstable at ambient temperature, and as such, little is known about its bulk properties. However, it is known as a black, amorphous powder, which was synthesised for the first time in 2014.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Magnesium monohydride</span> Chemical compound

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The buffer-gas trap (BGT) is a device used to accumulate positrons efficiently while minimizing positron loss due to annihilation, which occurs when an electron and positron collide and the energy is converted to gamma rays. The BGT is used for a variety of research applications, particularly those that benefit from specially tailored positron gases, plasmas and/or pulsed beams. Examples include use of the BGT to create antihydrogen and the positronium molecule.

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