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Dancing 'adatoms' help chemists understand how water molecules split
Date:3/16/2009

and zipping away as water. If the incoming water molecule has been stripped, the adatom appears to have hopped over.

The calculated energy required for these different scenarios fit well with the team's experimental data. When a row oxygen serves as a middleman, the process is known as "pseudo-dissociation", a reaction suggested by chemists but until now, never verified experimentally.

"We realized that only if we involved the pseudo-dissociative state of the water can we explain it," said Lyubinetsky. "Otherwise, all the calculations show there's too high a barrier, the adatom just cannot jump by itself."

Lyubinetsky points out that this shows that water itself can work as a catalyst. A catalyst is a molecule that can help a chemical reaction along and remain unchanged by the experience.

"Water is required to move the adatoms around, but like a catalyst it is not consumed in the reaction," he said. "You start with water and you end with water."

In the future, the team plans on determining if water can make the adatoms move other species and more than one space at a time. In addition, they will investigate how light affects the reaction.


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Contact: Mary Beckman
mary.beckman@pnl.gov
509-375-3688
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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