In this project supported by the Chemical Structure Dynamics and Mechanisms Program of the Division of Chemistry, Prof. Arthur Utz of Tufts University will study how the motions (dynamics) of atoms and molecules can promote chemical reactivity at the gas-surface interface. Gas-surface reactions underlie industrial processes ranging from heterogeneous catalysis to materials deposition and semiconductor fabrication. The proposed studies will combine quantum state-resolved laser excitation of a gas phase reagent with ultra-high vacuum surface science techniques to show how specific molecular motions (bond stretches, bends, and surface vibrations) promote reactivity. Another line of inquiry will explore the rates and pathways for energy redistribution processes that dictate reactivity. The experiments will reveal how vibrational energy in the gas-phase reagent and in the surface impact reactivity. The study of surface vibrations will be a particularly significant focus as it has the potential to inform our understanding of the unique catalytic activity of nanoparticles. The ultimate goal of this work is to develop a better understanding of the important variables that influence gas-surface reactivity, with an aim towards designing better theories, identifying new strategies for chemical control, and revealing new practical applications. The results of this study will provide theorists with much useful data to test the latest theories.
The results of this research will also provide important guidance in designing practical catalytic reaction schemes, which are important to industry. Students and postdoctoral research associates who participate in this research acquire new knowledge and skills in preparation for advanced studies or entrance into the scientific/technological job market. The PI will also guide departmental efforts to incorporate active citizenship into the undergraduate and graduate curriculum at Tufts. These efforts will better prepare Tufts students engage in public discourse, participate in outreach activities, and incorporate the principles of active citizenship in their professional careers.