The novel method can only heat about one nanolitre (billionth of a litre) in one go. This may sound small, but is large enough for most experiments. For comparison, ink-jet printers fire droplets that are as small as one picolitre, which is a thousand times less than a nanolitre.
"The idea is to heat-up the 'solvent' so that many molecules start the desired chemical process at the same time and then watch the reaction evolve," explains Vendrell, who worked out the super heater with co-authors Pankaj Kr. Mishra and Prof. Robin Santra, also of CFEL. Although the hot mini-cloud will fly apart in less than a millisecond (a thousandth of a second), it lasts long enough to unravel everything of interest in thermal reactions such as the combination of small organic molecules to form new substances. The team currently investigates how the intense pulse of terahertz radiation affects different types of molecules dissolved in water, from inorganic to biological systems.
The reaction progress can be probed with ultrashort X-ray flashes like they will be produced by the 3.4-kilometre-long X-ray free-electron laser European XFEL, which currently is being built between the DESY campus in Hamburg and the neighbouring town of Schenefeld. When completed, the European XFEL will be able to generate 27,000 intense X-ray laser flashes per second, which can for example be used to record the different stages of chemical reactions.
One advantage of the heating meth
|Contact: Dr. Thomas Zoufal|
Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY