Using Quantum Rules to Move Chemistry into Uncharted Territory

Using Quantum Rules to Move Chemistry into Uncharted Territory

Unshackling chemical transformations from the constraints of the classical rules of chemistry

Next time you feel a time crunch at work, think of the one David Beratan and his colleagues at the Center for Synthesizing Quantum Coherence (CSQC) have. They measure their deadlines in picoseconds (ps) and femtoseconds (fs) — one trillionth and one quadrillionth of a second, respectively.

The big hurry is because they are conducting basic science about how to design and control chemical reactions according to the rules of quantum theory rather than those of century-old classical chemistry theory, which describe the role of temperature as the driver of reactions. That is, they are trying to rearrange electrons and atoms and direct the flow of charge, spin and excitation energy in molecules before these fleeting quantum effects evaporate, and thermal effects of the environment rule the day.

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