Quantum tunneling of oxygen atoms on very cold surfaces

M. Minissale*, E. Congiu, S. Baouche, H. Chaabouni, A. Moudens, Francois Dulieu, M. Accolla, S. Cazaux, G. Manicó, Valerio Pirronello

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Any evolving system can change state via thermal mechanisms (hopping a barrier) or via quantum tunneling. Most of the time, efficient classical mechanisms dominate at high temperatures. This is why an increase of the temperature can initiate the chemistry. We present here an experimental investigation of O-atom diffusion and reactivity on water ice. We explore the 6-25 K temperature range at submonolayer surface coverages. We derive the diffusion temperature law and observe the transition from quantum to classical diffusion. Despite the high mass of O, quantum tunneling is efficient even at 6 K. As a consequence, the solid-state astrochemistry of cold regions should be reconsidered and should include the possibility of forming larger organic molecules than previously expected.

Original languageEnglish
Article number053201
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2013


Dive into the research topics of 'Quantum tunneling of oxygen atoms on very cold surfaces'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this