In the forward direction, the interaction of the reactants with the surface is either too weak to allow direct study of the mechanism, or the intermediate -- a ring structure on the surface of the silver catalyst -- forms and transforms too quickly for scientists to study. But in reverse, the intermediate stays on the surface longer, so scientists can apply various techniques to try to understand the reaction mechanism.
"If we find a general rule based on our studies with this model catalyst, then we can design a new catalyst, because we know how the reaction occurred on the surface," said Brookhaven chemist Hong Piao, who is working on the project. The general goal is to improve the reactivity and selectivity of the catalyst for producing particular products.
Piao will present a talk on this work during the Division of Colloid and Surface Chemistry poster session, "Fundamental Research in Colloid and Surface Chemistry," on Monday, September 8, 2003, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Hilton New York, Rhinelander Room. This work was funded by the Division of Chemical Sciences, Office of Basic Energy Sciences at DOE's Office of Science.