Scientists claim to observe ‘quantum superchemistry’ for the first time

8 Aug 2023

Image: © Peter Jurik/

If correct, quantum superchemistry presents a way to make faster quantum chemical reactions and lead to new breakthroughs in this field.

Scientists at the University of Chicago claim to have observed a phenomenon known as “quantum superchemistry” for the first time, which could boost various forms of quantum research.

In simple terms, quantum superchemistry is when particles in the same quantum state exhibit accelerated chemical reactions. The US researchers said this concept has been theorised for decades but had not been previously observed.

If the theory is accurate, it could pave the way for creating faster quantum chemical reactions and help scientists learn more about particles. It could also lead to new applications in quantum chemistry and the development of quantum computers.

To test this theory, the research team put particles together in extremely low temperatures to put them all in the same quantum state. In this state, the team said particles can display unusual behaviours.

In the study, cesium atoms were cooled to extremely cold temperatures and then pushed into the same quantum state, which caused these atoms to form molecules.

In normal chemistry, atoms collide and have a chance to form a new molecule with each collision. But in the “superchemistry” theory, atoms in the quantum state perform actions collectively, according to Prof Cheng Chin, whose lab performed the research.

“You are no longer treating a chemical reaction as a collision between independent particles, but as a collective process,” Chin said. “All of them are reacting together, as a whole.”

The researchers said this meant reactions happened faster than they would under normal conditions, with the speed increasing if more atoms were in the system.

The researchers also claimed the final molecules shared the same molecular state, giving the team more control in terms of the molecules they wanted to create.

The experiment was performed with two-atom molecules, but the team aims to handle larger and more complex molecules in the future.

“How far we can push our understanding and our knowledge of quantum engineering, into more complicated molecules, is a major research direction in this scientific community,” Chin said.

Earlier this year, scientists in Sweden said they successfully managed to use a quantum computer to solve simple chemistry problems, as a proof-of-concept for more advanced calculations.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic