Observing bond formation in real time using X-ray scattering

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  • Published: Feb 27, 2015
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: X-ray Spectrometry

The formation of chemical bonds to make new molecules had been visualised for the first time by researchers in Korea, using femtosecond time-resolved X-ray solution scattering.

Starting with an aqueous solution of Au(CN)2, the team studied the formation of the trimer [Au(CN)2]3 under photoexcitation by irradiating the solution with X-ray pulses up to 100 fs long to give a series of difference scattering curves. These displayed distinct oscillatory features which reflected structural changes during the formation of covalent Au-Au bonds.

The individual reaction steps and the changes in molecular geometry could be elucidated as the researchers described in Nature. In the ground (S0) state, the weakly bound Au atoms existed in a bent geometry but photoexcitation produced the excited (S1) state within a few hundred fs accompanied by the formation of covalent Au-Au bonds and a bent-to-linear transition.

Bond contraction continued during the formation of the triplet (T1) state of the trimer within 1.6 ps which converted to a tetramer in 3 ns as the Au atoms adopted the original bent structure.

"By using femtosecond time-resolved X-ray liquidography, we will be able to observe molecular vibration and rotation in the solution phase in real time," said Hyotcherl Ihee from the Institute of Basic Science in Daejeon, who participated in the study.

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