Sunday, June 30, 2013
Quantum mechanics enables 'impossible' space chemistry - physics-math - 30 June 2013 - New Scientist
Quantum mechanics enables 'impossible' space chemistry - physics-math - 30 June 2013 - New Scientist: Another route to methoxy is to combine a hydroxyl radical and methanol gas, both present in space. But this reaction requires hurdling a significant energy barrier – and the energy to do that simply isn't available in the cold expanse of space.
Heard and his colleagues wondered if the answer lay in quantum mechanics: a process called quantum tunnelling might give the hydroxyl radical a small chance to cheat by digging through the barrier instead of going over it, they reasoned.
So, in another attempt to replicate the production of methoxy in space, the team chilled gaseous hydroxyl and methanol to 63 kelvin – and were able to produce methoxy...
The team also found that the reaction occurred 50 times faster via quantum tunnelling than if it occurred normally at room temperature by hurdling the energy barrier.