Quantum physics paves the way for new chemical products

October 17, 2017, Open University
Professor Nigel Mason with the Velocity Map Imaging spectrometer. Credit: Open University

Research by an OU molecular physicist has discovered that electrons can control chemical reactions in experiments leading to purer, cheaper chemical products.

The research, published on Monday 16 October 2017 in Nature Physics, has discovered electrons displaying their own quantum mechanical nature (ie its state, such as its momentum and position), can induce coherence in other molecules.

Observing these low energy electrons, physicists from both The Open University and Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, have discovered that can be controlled using electrons – rather than lasers, which are currently used – providing a much cheaper alternative to controlling chemical reactions. This has applications in the manufacturing of new chemical products that can be used in industry, including new drugs for and new electronics for computers.

Professor of Molecular Physics in the School of Physical Sciences at The Open University, Nigel Mason, is leading on the research; he said:

"The ability to control chemical reactions is one of the major goals in chemistry; it would enable scientists and the manufacturing industry to reduce production costs and waste by targeting only the chemicals they want. The discovery that an electron rather than a laser can control the process means that this is approach is cheaper and faster."

Creation of coherent states in molecules by incoherent electrons
Momentum images of H from H2 and D from D2 at different electron energies. The one at 4 eV for H is symmetric, while those above 14 eV are strongly asymmetric. The asymmetry in D is less pronounced and appear to change direction with change in electron energy. Credit: E. Krishnakumar et al, Nature Physics

Explore further: Study paves the way for creating on and off buttons for chemical reactions

More information: E. Krishnakumar et al. Symmetry breaking by quantum coherence in single electron attachment, Nature Physics (2017). DOI: 10.1038/NPHYS4289

Related Stories

New model predicts once-mysterious chemical reactions

June 28, 2016

A team of researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory and Curtin University in Australia developed a theoretical model to forecast the fundamental chemical reactions involving molecular hydrogen (H2), which after many ...

Steering chemical reactions with laser pulses

April 23, 2014

With ultra-short laser pulses, chemical reactions can be controlled at the Vienna University of Technology. Electrons have little mass and are therefore influenced by the laser, whereas the atomic nuclei are much heavier ...

Recommended for you

A phonon laser operating at an exceptional point

July 20, 2018

The basic quanta of light (photon) and sound (phonon) are bosonic particles that largely obey similar rules and are in general very good analogs of one another. Physicists have explored this analogy in recent experimental ...

Unusual sound waves discovered in quantum liquids

July 20, 2018

Ordinary sound waves—small oscillations of density—can propagate through all fluids, causing the molecules in the fluid to compress at regular intervals. Now physicists have theoretically shown that in one-dimensional ...

A physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

July 20, 2018

An international team of scientists has discovered a new, exotic form of insulating material with a metallic surface that could enable more efficient electronics or even quantum computing. The researchers developed a new ...

0 comments

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.