Femtochemistry is the area in the field of physical chemistry that deals with studying of the chemical reactions on a minute time scale (one femtosecond or 10-15 seconds). This is done to study the action of atoms within the molecules to form new molecules by rearranging themselves.
Femtochemistry is a result of the Ahmed H. Zewail’s curiosity. He studied the atoms in slow motion during a chemical reaction in order to know what happens when the chemical bonds are broken to form the new bonds. Zewail even received a Nobel Prize in chemistry for his contribution in 1999.
He used an apparatus which resembled a high-speed camera. The apparatus used the laser flashes of short duration which helped in recording the time scale on which the chemical reactions takes place. The camera captured the pictures of the molecules in their transition phase when they were undergoing a chemical reaction. A femtosecond is basically 10-15 seconds or 0.000000000000001 seconds. Hence, this area of physical chemistry came to be known as the femtochemistry.
IMPORTANCE OF FEMTOCHEMISTRY
- It helps us in understanding the basics behind any chemical reaction. For example, femtochemistry has helped in understanding the time-resolved stages of dissociation of bromine.
- Its observations help us in understanding why certain reactions take place and why certain chemical reactions fail to complete.
- It also explains why speed and the outcome of the reaction are temperature dependent.
- Scientists use femtosecond spectrography for studying various processes in solids, liquids, gases, polymers and on the surfaces.
- The applications of femtochemistry include the functioning of catalysts, designing of the molecular electronic components, intricacy in the mechanisms of life processes along with the new innovations in the medicines.
HOW FAST ARE THE CHEMICAL REACTIONS?
Chemical reactions can take place at different velocities. For example, it can be as slow as rusting of a nail and can be as fast as the explosion of dynamite. With the increase in temperature, the velocity increases and the motion of the molecules become increasingly violent.
This was one of the primary reasons why the researchers believed that for a reaction to take place, the molecules ought to be activated. The collision of molecules results in bouncing them apart. Only with high temperature as a catalyst, the collision becomes violent enough for the molecules to react with each other thereby forming new ones. The chemical bonds break apart and new chemical bonds are formed.