Pitt, NETL researchers report molecular chain reaction thought to be impossible

December 11, 2008

PITTSBURGH--People said it couldn't be done, but researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) in Pittsburgh demonstrated a molecular chain reaction on a metal surface, a nanoscale process with sizable potential in areas from nanotechnology to developing information storage technology. The researchers report in the Dec. 12 edition of Science that a single electron caused a self-perpetuating chain reaction that rearranged the bonds in 10 consecutive molecules positioned on a gold surface. As each molecule's original bond was broken by the reaction, the molecule rearranged itself to form a new molecule.

Study coauthor Kenneth Jordan, a Distinguished Professor of Chemistry in Pitt's School of Arts and Sciences and codirector of the University's Center for Simulation and Modeling, said that the ability to initiate molecular chain reactions and self-assembly has potential applications in information storage and in nanolithography, a process used in producing microchips and circuit boards.

Because the demonstrated reaction involved several molecules on a surface, it reframes researchers' understanding of surface-based chain reactions. "The conventional wisdom held that a surface reaction would fizzle soon after the electron was introduced," Jordan said. "Our work, however, shows that reactions on metal surfaces can be sustained over long distances."

Jordan and his colleagues worked with dimethyldisulfide molecules--two CH(3) methyl groups bonded by two adjoining sulfur atoms. The added electron split the bond between the sulfur atoms of one molecule, creating a highly reactive free radical that attacked the sulfur-sulfur bond of the neighboring molecule. The radical split the bond, resulting in a new molecule and a new radical that proceeded to the sulfur-sulfur bond of the next molecule. The process repeated itself through a series of molecules.
-end-
Jordan conducted the research with Peter Maksymovych, who received his PhD degree in physical chemistry from Pitt in 2007 and is now at the U.S. Department of Energy Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences; Dan C. Sorescu of NETL; and John T. Yates Jr., a former Pitt Mellon Professor of Chemistry and now at the University of Virginia. Maksymovych and Yates carried out the experiments and Jordan and Sorescu performed the supporting theoretical calculations.

University of Pittsburgh

Related Molecules Articles from Brightsurf:

Finally, a way to see molecules 'wobble'
Researchers at the University of Rochester and the Fresnel Institute in France have found a way to visualize those molecules in even greater detail, showing their position and orientation in 3D, and even how they wobble and oscillate.

Water molecules are gold for nanocatalysis
Nanocatalysts made of gold nanoparticles dispersed on metal oxides are very promising for the industrial, selective oxidation of compounds, including alcohols, into valuable chemicals.

Water molecules dance in three
An international team of scientists has been able to shed new light on the properties of water at the molecular level.

How molecules self-assemble into superstructures
Most technical functional units are built bit by bit according to a well-designed construction plan.

Breaking down stubborn molecules
Seawater is more than just saltwater. The ocean is a veritable soup of chemicals.

Shaping the rings of molecules
Canadian chemists discover a natural process to control the shape of 'macrocycles,' molecules of large rings of atoms, for use in pharmaceuticals and electronics.

The mysterious movement of water molecules
Water is all around us and essential for life. Nevertheless, research into its behaviour at the atomic level -- above all how it interacts with surfaces -- is thin on the ground.

Spectroscopy: A fine sense for molecules
Scientists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics have developed a unique laser technology for the analysis of the molecular composition of biological samples.

Looking at the good vibes of molecules
Label-free dynamic detection of biomolecules is a major challenge in live-cell microscopy.

Colliding molecules and antiparticles
A study by Marcos Barp and Felipe Arretche from Brazil published in EPJ D shows a model of the interaction between positrons and simple molecules that is in good agreement with experimental results.

Read More: Molecules News and Molecules Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.