Did Trihydrogen created the Universe?

Did Trihydrogen created the Universe?

Did Trihydrogen make the Universe
Image Credits: Michigan State University

Researchers are using ultra-fast lasers to create and study Trihydrogen (H3+), which is quite abundant in our universe, for sake of understanding the chemistry of this iconic molecule.

Almost every molecule in the universe was born from the Trihydrogen cation. It was discovered in 1911 by J. J. Thomson while he was studying plasma discharges. As the name suggests, it contains 3 Hydrogen atoms in the form of an equilateral triangle. Trihydrogen has been detected almost everywhere ranging from planetary atmospheres to the interstellar medium outside our solar system. Scientists believe that the advanced study of the structure and chemistry of H3+ will unravel more mysteries about the birth of our universe.

H3+ is an electrically charged molecule with only two electrons to share. It is a building block of stars just like Hydrogen. Having said that, a significant difference between both the molecules is that H3+ can bend and vibrate which allows it to emit light (Hydrogen doesn’t emit light). Ludwik Adamowicz, a Professor at the University of Arizona (UA) talked about that and said,

“One has to involve a large amount of computations at the quantum mechanical level to predict those vibrations. The role of theory is essentially to simulate those vibrations in the computer and then describe how the molecule is swinging or dancing.”

Importance of Trihydrogen

Understanding the various vibrations of Trihydrogen could help astronomers to deduce how much it contributed to the formation of the early stars. Adamowicz explained that most of the universe consists of hydrogen in various forms but the H3+ ion is the most prevalent molecular ion in interstellar space. It’s also one of the most important molecules in existence. Believed to be critical to the formation of stars in the early days of the universe, H3+ also is the precursor to many types of chemical reactions including those leading to compounds such as water or carbon, which are essential for life.

Why use Lasers?

Under normal conditions, the process of Trihydrogenformation is so rapid that it would be impossible to observe it. The bonds are broken and reformed faster than it would take a speeding bullet to cross an atom. For this reason, ‘Femtosecond Lasers’ were used for analyzing the process. According to the results, the formation of Trihydrogen takes about 100 and 240 femtoseconds on a molecular level. As soon as the laser beam is fired, the timer starts. The laser pulse then ‘sees’ the entire process.

During the bond breakdown, the H2molecule is released briefly. Afterward, it extracts a 3rd Hydrogen molecule from its vicinity to form H3+. In one of the experiments, Ethanol was used and out of 6 possible paths, 4 pathways were confirmed. A Doctoral candidate at the UA, Michele Pavanello, referred to the mechanism by saying,

“The only way we can predict how the stars form is if we know very well what the cooling abilities of H3+ are, and we cannot know its cooling ability until we know its vibrational spectrum. We need to know what these energy levels are. With this paper, we have pinpointed the energy levels up to a certain energy threshold that is already good enough to generate accurate predictions of the cooling ability of H3+.”

Coincident Discovery of Trihydrogen

The researching team of Pavanello did not start out with the intention of uncovering the secrets of H3+. Initially, Ludwik and one of his friends discussed the possibilities of running some tests on Trihydrogen. Coincidentally, Pavanello was building code of his own to do some H3+ calculations. Coincidentally, the discussions of Ludwik went hand-in-hand seamlessly with Pavanello’s code. As a result, the entire system was run on the supercomputers of the High-Performance Computing Center of the University of Arizona. The testing revealed that the software is quite adept at tracking the motion of the forming molecules. Pavanello mentioned that in the following words:

“It all happened by chance. A friend of the mass-spectrometry facility in the UA’s chemistry department happens to be a very good quantum chemist from Hungary. He once visited the department and talked to Ludwik about the possibility to do some H3+ calculations. At the time, I had just started. The code I was writing was almost done, and we thought H3+ could be a good system on which to test this code.”

It is an important discovery as it can be considered an initial step in creating a reliable model that shows how the early starts were created.

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