The researchers identified a chemical reaction that involved dispersing carbon to iodine bonds in the organic molecule iodobenzene, by ways of metallic copper, a popular catalyst. The reaction was instigated by an electron coming from the tip of a microscope that linked itself to the iodobenzene.
“We identified acceleration in the reactivity of the carbon to iodine bonds when such bonds were aligned along rows of atoms based on copper in the catalyst, in comparison to the bonds aligned across the copper rows,” says Kelvin Anggara, a Ph.D. student in Polanyi’s research study and a head author of the study. “The surface of copper acted more robust on bonds that were close than on bond that were far away,” says Anggara. “We identified 100 – fold differences in reactivity between bonds directing in particular directions on the catalyst.”
The study could be explained by a mathematical model introduced by the scientists over the past couple of years, which allowed them to generate a computer – generated movie of the movements of the atoms engaged in the bond – breaking process at the surface of copper. It was the movie that disclosed the reason why the copper catalysed the bonds along specific rows in preference to bonds across the rows.
Such technique is rooted in the analysis of chemical reactions taking place at the surface of solid substances that has guided Polanyi and his team for decades. Following such receipt of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1986 for identifying the molecular movements in chemical reactions occurring in gases, Polanyi instigated studying the reactions of singular molecules lying on well – outlined catalytic surfaces.
Polanyi confirms researchers are only starting to comprehend how catalysis functions and that the shift towards green chemistry makes understanding as much as possible about catalysts and how they diminish waste caused by chemical reactions more vital than ever before.
“The challenge for the future will be to engineer metal catalysts embodying atomic patterns that boost chemical reactions along pathways that resulted in desired products,” says Polanyi. “Current advances in the construction of surfaces, atom-by-atom, lend themselves to the structure of such engineered catalysts.”
The findings are detailed in the study ‘Bond selectivity in electron-induced reaction due to directed recoil on an anisotropic substrate.’
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