Molecular dissociation in the presence of catalysts: interpreting bond breaking as a quantum dynamical phase transition

  • A Ruderman, A D Dente, E Santos, H M Pastawski
  • Journal of Physics Condensed Matter, July 2015, Institute of Physics Publishing
  • DOI: 10.1088/0953-8984/27/31/315501

Bond breaking/formation is a quantum dynamical phase transition

What is it about?

As a dimer approaches a catalyst's surface it breaks down. But when and how does this break down precisely happens? What distinguishes these two different quantum objects, i.e. the molecule and the independent atoms? We find, within a simple model, that Bond breaking/formation involves a sort of discontinuity known as a quantum dynamical phase transition enabled by the environment (e.g. catalyst). This has a loose analogy with the damped oscillator transition from the oscillating into the overdamped regime.

Why is it important?

How do molecules form? This has been recognized as one of the ten unsolved mysteries of Chemistry, [P. Ball, Sci.Am. October 2011 p.48 ]. When two identical atoms meet to form a dimer, at some point a new entity emerges. The reciprocal is also true: as a dimer approaches a catalyst's surface it breaks down. But when and how does this break down precisely happens? What distinguishes these two different quantum objects, i.e. the molecule and the independent atoms? We find an straightforward answer much on the spirit of Anderson P W (1972) "More is different", Science, 177 pp393–6

Perspectives

Professor Horacio M. Pastawski
Instituto de Física Enrique Gaviola- Conicet- Universidad Nacional de Córdoba

These questions have been moving me since I first learned Chemistry and Quantum Mechanics. I had to learn much about open quantum systems before I came up with this simple model that provide such a nice answer. In this work I feel I can distinguish the precise critical distance where two atoms become a molecule. Of course, with the due idealizations...! but still...

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/0953-8984/27/31/315501

The following have contributed to this page: Professor Horacio M. Pastawski