Faculty of Science
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Reactions in isolation

The chemical world is a dynamic one, where molecules and materials are in constant evolution. This complexity makes it difficult to understand the underlying principles that drive the constantly shifting equilibria.

Reductionist approach

Reactivity in isolation is the reductionist approach to understanding this world, where chemical compounds are isolated from their complex environments and are allowed to react under highly controlled conditions.

Shift to broader, dynamical nature of chemistry

The new theme reflects a shift in the molecular research at HFML-FELIX from a focus on molecular structure determination, to a focus where structure is only a necessary ingredient for understanding the broader, dynamical nature of chemistry.

Reactivity touches upon various fields, ranging from catalysis and proteomics to astrochemistry. Combining kinetic studies with structure-sensitive IR spectroscopy offers the unique possibility to identify (intermediate) reaction products and transients, providing a deep insight into reaction pathways. As a pioneering laboratory of structure determination using IR action spectroscopy of isolated species, we have the potential to make key contributions in understanding reactivity in isolation in the coming years.

Current catalysis research on metal-mediated reactions focusses on the interaction between reactants and the cluster surface. To enable the identification of full catalytic cycles, the study of metal-mediated reactions reactions under steady-state conditions will be pursued, where the equilibrium can be driven by manipulating ambient conditions or via photoactivation.


Time-resolved probing of reactions on a cluster surface

Direct insight into the catalytic reaction pathways can also be obtained by time-resolved probing of reactions on a cluster surface. Ultrashort IR pulses resonantly pump a specific vibrational mode, triggering a structural change which will be independently probed. The FEL tunability enables one to start this process with a well-defined energy impetus, while its spectral brightness, which could be greatly enhanced by FEL cavity-dumping  is key to successful triggering.

Infrared ion spectroscopy (IRIS) has revolutionized the field of ion chemistry over the past decade. Product ion structures of collision-induced dissociation reactions can now be routinely characterized by their IR fingerprint in tandem with MS. UV photoabsorption will enable the study of photoactive species, with a special focus on developing a fundamental understanding of the energy flow in natural and commercial sunscreen agents.