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Karina Morgenstern and Karsten Lucht with the experimental set-up at RUB © RUB, Marquard

How a crystal is solvated in water

Angew. Chem. Int. Ed.: The solvation process is of fundamental importance for chemistry – but is very difficult to observe.

Solvation processes take place constantly and everywhere, such as when you put a spoonful of sugar into your coffee in a morning. The solid crystals are solvated in no time at all and disperse in the liquid. What happens at a molecular level is difficult to decipher because the process takes place too quickly at room temperature to be observed. Therefore, chemists from the Resolv Cluster of Excellence have studied the solvation process at very low temperatures.

The team led by Dr. Karsten Lucht and Professor Karina Morgenstern from the RUB Department of Physical Chemistry I used low-temperature scanning tunnelling microscopy, which operates at minus 265 degrees Celsius. At this temperature, molecular movements come to a standstill, allowing the individual molecules to be imaged. "We were thus able to observe the relevant steps of the solvation process on individual molecules for the first time," says Karina Morgenstern.

More targeted control of chemical reactions

"Understanding the solvation process is of fundamental importance for chemistry, since the knowledge could help to influence the interaction between solvents and solvated molecules in a targeted way and thus to control chemical reactions even more comprehensively," explains Karsten Lucht.

The researchers describe the results in the journal Angewandte Chemie from 11 October 2018.

 

Additional Information

Original Publication: K. Lucht, I. Trosien, W. Sander, K. Morgenstern: Imaging the solvation of a one-dimensional solid on the molecular scale, in: Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 2018, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201808579

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