A new study has been able for the first time to monitor the different stages of a chemical reaction, when one bond breaks and another forms.
The work, which involved the University of Nottingham Trent, the University of Southampton and the University of Warwick, has been successful in “trapping” the stages in a crystalline state.
The different stages of a chemical reaction are considered very difficult to determine because you have the starting material or the product and nothing in between.
Researchers have been able to measure and observe the degree of bond formation, both in terms of the increasing share of electrons and the magnetic interaction between the two atoms at each end of the bond, as the bond forms.
The study involved the use of high-quality X-ray diffraction data and state-of-the-art solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) techniques on crystalline materials.
The researchers studied a series of six molecules in which a bond between a nitrogen atom and carbon was partially formed to varying degrees.
This meant that, for the first time, it was possible to follow the redistribution of electrons in bond formation, determined from precisely measured X-ray diffraction in a single crystal.
The complementary NMR work monitored the magnetic interaction between the two atoms as the bond formed.
“Our work provides the methods for studies on other bonding processes,” lead researcher John Wallis, professor emeritus at Nottingham Trent University School of Science and Technology, said in a statement.[display-posts orderby="rand"]
“This is important because catalysts aim to speed up reactions by stabilizing the pathway by which bonds are formed and broken.”