Molecular physics

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For the academic journal of the same name, see Molecular Physics (journal).

Molecular physics is the study of the physical properties of molecules, the chemical bonds between atoms as well as the molecular dynamics. Its most important experimental techniques are the various types of spectroscopy; scattering is also used. The field is closely related to atomic physics and overlaps greatly with theoretical chemistry, physical chemistry and chemical physics.

Additionally to the electronic excitation states which are known from atoms, molecules are able to rotate and to vibrate. These rotations and vibrations are quantized, there are discrete energy levels. The smallest energy differences exist between different rotational states, therefore pure rotational spectra are in the far infrared region (about 30 - 150 µm wavelength) of the electromagnetic spectrum. Vibrational spectra are in the near infrared (about 1 - 5 µm) and spectra resulting from electronic transitions are mostly in the visible and ultraviolet regions. From measuring rotational and vibrational spectra properties of molecules like the distance between the nuclei can be calculated.

One important aspect of molecular physics is that the essential atomic orbital theory in the field of atomic physics expands to the molecular orbital theory.

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