An article in Scientific American reports on a new study published in Nature which finds that quantum tunneling has been observed in experiments using hydrogen and deuterium, and the rate of tunneling is predictable.
Quantum tunneling refers to the phenomenon where particles somehow bore through energy barriers that normally would prevent them from doing so, and thus they defy the accepted laws of classical physics.
“the researchers trapped deuterium ions in a cage of electric fields, flushed them with hydrogen gas and cooled everything down to an extremely chilly 15 kelvins. At temperatures that cold, the hydrogen and deuterium lacked the energy to react without tunneling. After waiting for about 15 minutes, the scientists measured how many hydrogen ions had been produced to find the reaction rate.[…]
Tunneling occurred only about one in every 100 billion collisions between hydrogen and a deuterium ion, which agrees very well with Kokoouline and Yuen’s theoretical calculations. “It feels quite amazing that the numbers match with the experiments,” Yuen says. “I feel like it’s a big triumph, as a theorist.”