In this project, funded by the Chemical Structure, Dynamics and Mechanisms Program of the Chemistry Division, Prof. Helen O. Leung and Prof. Mark D. Marshall of Amherst College and their undergraduate research students will investigate pathways of chemical reactions through the analysis of rotational spectra obtained via Fourier transform microwave spectroscopy. Included in these studies are the interactions responsible for bringing molecules together for reaction. This involves the interplay between electrostatic and steric effects. They will be explored in systematic studies of gas-phase intermolecular complexes between protic acids and haloethylenes, the first signs of electron rearrangement that signal the start of chemical reaction in complexes containing the reactive hydroxyl radical, and the ultimate disposition of chemical energy at the end of reaction by determining the partitioning of energy among the internal degrees of freedom of sulfur dioxide produced in thermal extrusion reactions.
This work will contribute to a better fundamental understanding of the basic principles responsible for the chemical transformation of matter and could potentially have direct application to the chemistry of the atmosphere and of combustion. Through it, Prof. Leung and Prof. Marshall will provide their undergraduate research students with the opportunity to perform demanding experiments where they learn to integrate and apply material learned in the classroom and to communicate their findings through presentations at national profession meetings and publications in the scientific literature.