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The morse potential is a convenient model for the potential energy of a diatomic molecule. It is much used in spectroscopic applications (reference to Dwek and Campbell needed) as it is possible to solve Schrödinger equation for this system (see Atkins). The functional form of the potential is:
Where is the equilibrium bond length and the potential energy for bond formation and "a" a parameter controlling the width of the potential well. If we plot the function it looks like:
Shown as red line is a harmonic fit to the Morse potential around the equilibrium position: showing how, in this case, Hooke's law can be used as a useful approximation.