Excited state proton transfer catalysis allows scientists to observe basic chemical reactions

February 3, 2016
Excited state proton transfer catalysis allows scientists to observe basic chemical reactions
An example of excited state proton transfer catalysis. Credit: Ken Hanson

What if light—or the lack thereof—could start and stop a chemical reaction in its tracks, giving scientists a freeze frame approach to study and control some of the most basic chemical reactions?

That's the premise that Florida State University researcher Ken Hanson is exploring through a new process his lab developed that uses light to drive reactions. It's called excited state proton transfer catalysis.

"We can turn on or off the reaction with a ," said Hanson, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry. "The reaction can even be performed by simply putting the reaction mixture in sunlight, the greenest of all ."

The research was published in the journal Chemical Communications and was featured on the back cover of the journal.

The reaction relies on certain non-acidic molecules that can become acidic after absorbing light. With light, they undergo a change that makes them 10 billion times more acidic than they are without the light. That change is greater than the difference between water and .

Excited state proton transfer catalysis allows scientists to observe basic chemical reactions

"These results open the door to an entirely new class of light-driven chemical reactions that are low cost, nontoxic and can be driven by sunlight," Hanson said.

This increased acidity, as well as the ability to stop and start a opens up huge doors for scientists in numerous domains of research including light-driven 3-D printing, photodynamic therapy and drug synthesis.

Explore further: Tiny 'flasks' speed up chemical reactions

Related Stories

Tiny 'flasks' speed up chemical reactions

January 7, 2016

Miniature self-assembling "flasks" created at the Weizmann Institute may prove a useful tool in research and industry. The nanoflasks, which have a span of several nanometers, or millionths of a millimeter, can accelerate ...

Light and air: Sunlight-driven CO2 fixation

November 19, 2012

(Phys.org)—The increased use of renewable energy sources, particularly sunlight, is highly desirable, as is industrial production that is as CO2-neutral as possible. Both of these wishes could be fulfilled if CO2 could ...

Molecular-like photochemistry from semiconductor nanocrystals

January 21, 2016

Researchers from North Carolina State University have demonstrated the transfer of triplet exciton energy from semiconductor nanocrystals to surface-bound molecular acceptors, extending the lifetime of the originally prepared ...

New chemistry makes strong bonds weak

July 28, 2015

Researchers at Princeton have developed a new chemical reaction that breaks the strongest bond in a molecule instead of the weakest, completely reversing the norm for reactions in which bonds are evenly split to form reactive ...

Recommended for you

A composite thread that varies in rigidity

October 27, 2016

EPFL scientists have developed a new type of composite thread that varies in stiffness depending on its temperature. Applications range from multifunctional robots to knitted casts, and even tunable medical devices.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.