Science and Engineering

Washington State University

David Y. Lee
Pullman, WA
$700,000
June 2018

 

A young investigator at Washington State University will develop a novel experimental approach to isolate and identify short-lived intermediate species in fundamental chemical reactions.  The game-changing idea is to directly transpose the reaction environment from gas phase to an inert and cold surface while preserving the free-molecule chemical structures and unperturbed energy states of all the reactants, intermediates, and products.  This is, in principle, made possible via precise alignment of a scanning tunneling microscope with a molecular beam and a tunable laser beam, so that the reactants can be excited to dissociate into selective product channels on surface while the entire reaction process is being monitored by the STM.  The cold and inert surface will effectively absorb all the translational, vibrational, and rotational energies of the intermediates and extend their lifetimes for high-resolution imaging.  As a proof-of-concept study, the roaming CH3 radicals from UV photodissociation of acetaldehyde (CH3CHO) will be experimentally isolated and observed using this new method.  The foundational knowledge gained here, including the necessary instrumentation and detailed operation procedures, will allow future scientists to provide solid experimental evidence about reaction mechanisms and, in turn, to better shape modern theoretical models.

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