• Tue. Feb 27th, 2024

The new method uses slow electrons to accelerate chemical reactions

The new method uses slow electrons to accelerate chemical reactions

In recent years, the field of electron-based reactions has witnessed significant progress, and researchers are exploring ways to optimize and improve the efficiency of these reactions. A promising approach that has gained attention is the use of slow electrons. By manipulating the energy and speed of electrons, scientists have discovered that slowing them down can result in more efficient and controlled reactions.

This exciting development opens up new possibilities for a variety of applications, from chemical synthesis to energy conversion and storage. In this article, we examine the possibilities of using slow electrons and how they could revolutionize the landscape of modern reaction engineering.

An international research team aims to detect dielectrons, a special chemical substance consisting of two electrons without a nucleus, which has previously eluded direct detection. Led by Professor Ruth Signorelli from ETH Zurich, the team made an unexpected discovery during their investigation—a ground-breaking method for generating slow electrons that trigger specific chemical reactions.

Dielectrons are inherently unstable, dissociating into separate electrons within a fraction of a nanosecond. However, the researchers demonstrated a curious phenomenon where one electron remains stationary while the other has a lower energy and lower speed. This innovative approach allows precise manipulation of the electron’s kinetic energy and effective control of its speed.

Dielectrons consist of two electrons without a nucleus and occupy small cavities. Scientists discovered a method to create dielectrons by dissolving sodium in liquid ammonia and exposing the solution to ultraviolet (UV) light. When UV light interacts with ammonia and sodium, an electron from each is combined to temporarily form a dielectron. Interestingly, when the dielectron detaches, one of the electrons moves at a speed determined by the wavelength of the UV light, indicating a transfer of energy from the light to the electron.

Led by researchers from ETH Zurich, in collaboration with scientists from the University of Freiburg, the SOLEIL synchrotron and Auburn University, the study is significant in understanding the damage that low-energy electrons, such as X-rays or radioactivity, can cause to human cells. These mobile electrons can interact with DNA and initiate chemical reactions.

By simulating the production of slow electrons in a solution using UV light and controlling their energy levels, researchers can gain insights into radiation damage. Furthermore, this research has broad implications, as the acceptance of a free electron is involved in various processes, such as the production of cortisone and other steroids. By using UV light to facilitate the production of slow electrons and control their energy, chemists can improve and optimize these reactions.

In conclusion, the discovery of slow electrons and their use in various reactions holds great promise for achieving improved efficiency and control. From radiation damage studies to synthetic processes, the ability to create and manipulate slow electrons opens up new possibilities for scientific exploration and optimization of chemicals.

Journal Reference:

  1. Sebastian Hartweg, Jonathan Barnes, and Bruce L. Yoder et al. Solvated dielectrons from optical excitation: an effective source of low-energy electrons. science DOI: 10.1126/science.adh0184

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