The geometric phase controls ultracold chemistry

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The geometric phase is shown to control the outcome of an ultracold chemical reaction. The control is a direct consequence of the sign change on the interference term between two scattering pathways (direct and looping), which contribute to the reactive collision process in the presence of a conical intersection (point of degeneracy between two Born–Oppenheimer electronic potential energy surfaces). The unique properties of the ultracold energy regime lead to an effective quantization of the scattering phase shift enabling maximum constructive or destructive interference between the two pathways. By taking the O+OH→H+O2 reaction as an illustrative example, it is shown that inclusion of the geometric phase modifies ultracold reaction rates by nearly two orders of magnitude. Interesting experimental control possibilities include the application of external electric and magnetic fields that might be used to exploit the geometric phase effect reported here and experimentally switch on or off the reactivity.