Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Movement of pyrrole molecules defy 'classical' physics

Date:
April 26, 2013
Source:
University of Cambridge
Summary:
Quantum laws loom ever larger in physical world as new research finds quantum phenomena in effect on a molecular level.

Representation of a pyrrole molecule.
Credit: Marco Sacchi

New research shows that movement of the ring-like molecule pyrrole over a metal surface runs counter to the centuries-old laws of 'classical' physics that govern our everyday world.

Using uniquely sensitive experimental techniques, scientists have found that laws of quantum physics -- believed primarily to influence at only sub-atomic levels -- can actually impact on a molecular level.

Researchers at Cambridge's Chemistry Department and Cavendish Laboratory say they have evidence that, in the case of pyrrole, quantum laws affecting the internal motions of the molecule change the "very nature of the energy landscape" -- making this 'quantum motion' essential to understanding the distribution of the whole molecule.

The study, a collaboration between scientists from Cambridge and Rutgers universities, appeared in the German chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie earlier this month.

A pyrrole molecule's centre consists of a "flat pentagram" of five atoms, four carbon and one nitrogen. Each of these atoms has an additional hydrogen atom attached, sticking out like spokes.

Following experiments performed by Barbara Lechner at the Cavendish Laboratory to determine the energy required for movement of pyrrole across a copper surface, the team discovered a discrepancy that led them down a 'quantum' road to an unusual discovery.

In previous work on simpler molecules, the scientists were able to accurately calculate the 'activation barrier' -- the energy required to loosen a molecule's bond to a surface, allowing movement -- using 'density functional theory', a method that treats the electrons which bind the atoms according to quantum mechanics but, crucially, deals with atomic nuclei using a 'classical' physics approach.

Surprisingly, with pyrrole the predicted 'activation barriers' were way out, with calculations "less than a third of the measured value." After much head scratching, puzzled scientists turned to a purely quantum phenomenon called 'zero-point energy'.

In classical physics, an object losing energy can continue to do so until it can be thought of as sitting perfectly still. In the quantum world, this is never the case: everything always retains some form of residual -- even undetectable -- energy, known as 'zero-point energy'.

While 'zero-point energy' is well known to be associated with motion of the atoms contained in molecules, it was previously believed that such tiny amounts of energy simply don't affect the molecule as a whole to any measurable extent, unless the molecule broke apart.

But now, the researchers have discovered that the "quantum nature" of the molecule's internal motion actually does affect the molecule as a whole as it moves across the surface, defying the 'classical' laws that it's simply too big to feel quantum effects.

'Zero-point energy' moving within a pyrrole molecule is unexpectedly sensitive to the exact site occupied by the molecule on the surface. In moving from one site to another, the 'activation energy' must include a sizeable contribution due to the change in the quantum 'zero-point energy'.

Scientists believe the effect is particularly noticeable in the case of pyrrole because the 'activation energy' needed for diffusion is particularly small, but that many other similar molecules ought to show the same kind of behavior.

"Understanding the nature of molecular diffusion on metal surfaces is of great current interest, due to efforts to manufacture two-dimensional networks of ring-like molecules for use in optical, electronic or spintronic devices," said Dr Stephen Jenkins, who heads up the Surface Science Group in Cambridge's Department of Chemistry.

"The balance between the activation energy and the energy barrier that sticks the molecules to the surface is critical in determining which networks are able to form under different conditions."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Cambridge. The original article is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Barbara A. J. Lechner, Holly Hedgeland, John Ellis, William Allison, Marco Sacchi, Stephen J. Jenkins, B. J. Hinch. Quantum Influences in the Diffusive Motion of Pyrrole on Cu(111). Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 2013; DOI: 10.1002/anie.201302289

Cite This Page:

University of Cambridge. "Movement of pyrrole molecules defy 'classical' physics." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 April 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130426115449.htm>.
University of Cambridge. (2013, April 26). Movement of pyrrole molecules defy 'classical' physics. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130426115449.htm
University of Cambridge. "Movement of pyrrole molecules defy 'classical' physics." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130426115449.htm (accessed October 2, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Japan Looks To Faster Future As Bullet Train Turns 50

Japan Looks To Faster Future As Bullet Train Turns 50

Newsy (Oct. 1, 2014) Japan's bullet train turns 50 Wednesday. Here's a look at how it's changed over half a century — and the changes it's inspired globally. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
US Police Put Body Cameras to the Test

US Police Put Body Cameras to the Test

AFP (Oct. 1, 2014) Police body cameras are gradually being rolled out across the US, with interest surging after the fatal police shooting in August of an unarmed black teenager. Duration: 02:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Japan Celebrates 'bullet Train' Anniversary

Raw: Japan Celebrates 'bullet Train' Anniversary

AP (Oct. 1, 2014) A ceremony marking 50 years since Japan launched its Shinkansen bullet train was held on Wednesday in Tokyo. The latest model can travel from Tokyo to Osaka, a distance of 319 miles, in two hours and 25 minutes. (Oct. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robotic Hair Restoration

Robotic Hair Restoration

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) A new robotic procedure is changing the way we transplant hair. The ARTAS robot leaves no linear scarring and provides more natural results. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins