Observing a Chemical Reaction

In order to improve upon existing technology, researchers typically take a deeper look into current generation models to get a deeper understanding of everything that is happening on the small-scale. Answering questions as to why something happens or when it happens could allow researchers to make current technology more efficient.

One of the things that researchers have been working to more fully understand for some time now is that of a chemical reaction. For the first time ever, researchers from MIT have observed the exact moment when a chemical reaction occurs between two substances. From this, the researchers were able to measure the energy of the transition state—something that was previously thought impossible due to the complexity of chemical reactions.

“Your reactants and products are stable valleys on either side of a mountain range, and the transition state is the pass,” said Josh Baraban, lead author of the study. “It’s the most convenient way to get from one to the other. Because it only exists as you go from as one thing to another, it’s never really been thought of as something that you can easily study directly.”

This from IFL Science:

The team studied a chemical process called isomerization. In this reaction, one molecule is transformed into another molecule that has the same atoms but they are arranged in a different way. The researchers looked at acetylene, a molecule formed by two carbon atoms bound to each other, and each bound to a hydrogen atom.

Read the full article here.

“We realized that where we saw the patterns breaking specifically involved the vibrations that were related to the kind of structural changes that should be happening at the transition state between these two conformations,” Baraban said. “It looks exactly like what you’d expect.”

From this study, a new formula to calculate the transition state energy was formed, allowing chemists to more easily work out rates of a reaction.

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