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Not to be confused with onium compounds, ions such as ammonium.

An onium (plural: onia) is a bound state of a particle and its antiparticle. They are usually named by adding the suffix -onium to the name of the constituting particle except for Muonium which, despite its name, not a bound muon–antimuon onium, but an electron–antimuon bound state, and whose name was assigned by IUPAC. A muon–antimuon onium would be named muononium.[citation needed]


Positronium is an onium which consists of an electron and a positron bound together as a long-lived metastable state. Positronium has been studied since the 1950s to understand bound states in quantum field theory. A recent development called non-relativistic quantum electrodynamics (NRQED) used this system as a proving ground.

Pionium, a bound state of two oppositely-charged pions, is interesting for exploring the strong interaction. This should also be true of protonium. The true analogs of positronium in the theory of strong interactions, however, are not exotic atoms but certain mesons, the quarkonium states, which are made of a heavy quark such as the charm or bottom quark and its antiquark. (Top quarks are so heavy that they decay through the weak force before they can form bound states.) Exploration of these states through non-relativistic quantum chromodynamics (NRQCD) and lattice QCD are increasingly important tests of quantum chromodynamics.

Understanding bound states of hadrons such as pionium and protonium is also important in order to clarify notions related to exotic hadrons such as mesonic molecules and pentaquark states.

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