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News Release 08-117

Radicals Shake Up Molecules in a Tug o' War

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Illustration shows two black dots in a glowing bar representing a molecule of unexcited deuterium.

The illustration depicts an unexcited deuterium molecule--a form of molecular hydrogen composed of two deuterium, or heavy hydrogen, atoms. The interactions of this molecule with a single hydrogen atom offer the first glimpse of the newly coined "Tug o' War Mechanism," which describes how the transfer of energy between colliding molecules affects the collision behavior. Stanford researchers, along with international collaborators, discovered this fundamental mechanism underlying many inelastic, or energy transferring, collisions in gases and liquids.

Credit: Stuart Greaves, University of Bristol

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The movie presents a representation of a collision between a molecule of deuterium (D2) and a radical hydrogen atom (white dot). The hydrogen atom approaches the D2 off center, tugging the molecule outwards, and then deflects around the molecule. This depicts the sort of frustrated chemical reactions that are theorized by the "Tug o' War."

Credit: Stuart Greaves, University of Bristol