Zurich - A team led by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich has succeeded in using UV light to produce electrons that move slowly. This will allow radiation damage, usually caused by slow electrons, to be investigated in greater detail.

A group of researchers led by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) has succeeded in controlling the speed in electrons in liquid. They have discovered that some of the energy from UV light is transferred to these particles and that they can be modified in targeted fashion in this way.

The international team of researchers from ETH Zurich, the University of Freiburg, the Soleil Synchrotron near Paris and the University of Auburn in the USA had actually intended to detect the presence of dielectrons in the solution, further details of which can be found in a press release issued by ETH Zurich. Dielectrons consist of two electrons but only stay intact for less than a trillionth of a second before splitting apart again. While investigating this mysterious chemical object, the researchers coincidentally stumbled upon a previously unknown process: One of the electrons remains in place during the division, while the other moves away relatively slowly with little energy.

According to ETH Zurich, this is interesting for several reasons. For one thing, slowly moving electrons cause radiation damage to human tissue, for example as a result of x-​rays or radioactivity. “Producing such slow electrons more easily in the lab will help researchers better examine the mechanisms that lead to radiation damage”, the press release states.

Another reason why this is of interest is that other chemical reactions in which a compound accepts a free electron can also be optimized by chemical experts using UV light to increase the kinetic energy of the electrons. For example, such reactions are currently used in the synthetic production of cortisone and other steroids. ce/mm

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