Billion-fold Enhancement of Reaction Rates, Using the Photothermal Effect of Nanoparticles

September 30, 2016

Benjamin Lear

Heat is one of the oldest tools for accomplishing chemical reactions and, while heat is valued for its general utility in pushing reactions over thermal barriers, it is also a Pandora’s box that can release unwanted products. Thus, bulk-scale reactions must be run at temperatures that strike a balance between the rate of the desired and undesired reactions. However, there is a way around this problem: improve the precision with which we apply the heat. Indeed, considering the size of molecules and the timescale needed for elementary reactions, application of bulk-scale heat in a flask represents a mis-match in both time and space of at least nine orders of magnitude. In this talk, I will demonstrate that the photothermal effect of nanoparticles can be used to provide heat on time and length scales that are better matched to the chemical process being promoted. This, in turn, allows for tremendous enhancements of the reaction rates (109) at extreme temperatures (2000 K), while preserving the atomistic control that is the hallmark of modern synthetic chemistry.