Gemmell, Donald S. Physics Division, Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, Illinois.
Last reviewed:January 2020
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A process in which a molecule moving with high velocity strikes a solid and the electrons that bond the molecule are torn off rapidly in violent collisions with the electrons of the solid; as a result, the molecule is suddenly transformed into a cluster of charged atomic constituents that then separate under the influence of their mutual Coulomb repulsion. The initial velocity of the molecule is typically greater than 3 × 106 ft/s (106 m/s), and it takes on the order of 10-17 s for electrons to be torn off the molecule. Typically, it takes about 10-15 s for the initial Coulomb potential energy of the cluster to be converted into kinetic energy as the charged fragments recede from one another. See also: Coulomb's law
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