In the process of R&D and preparation of new materials, it is very important to observe the complete chemical test process of its formation. Whether it is an unstable compound formed in the intermediate process or a “spare tire” product formed in the final test, it has research value.

Dynamic monitoring of macro and micro variables in the chemical process can reasonably control and confirm the reaction process and end point, so as to achieve the purpose of synthesizing the target product. In the process of developing new materials, such as the synthesis of new organic compounds, there will be various combinations of carbon-carbon bonds, but some changes in the combination process of carbon-carbon bonds are reversible, and some combinations of carbon-carbon bonds are very stable , if monitoring research can be carried out at the microscopic level, it can reach the core of the chemical reaction synthesis process.

However, in the preparation process of some compounds, some active chemical reactions are stable except for their starting materials and final products, but the violent compounds in the intermediate reaction process are extremely changeable, and it is very difficult to understand and observe.

Recently, a team from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom has created a powerful tool, a nanocamera, to observe the processes in the middle of some chemical reactions in real time.

Molecular-level real-time monitoring, theoretical products have nowhere to hide

This tiny camera uses a “molecular glue” called guar gum (CB) to combine tiny semiconductor nanocrystals and gold nanoparticles. When studying a chemical reaction, it is put into the molecular reaction solution to be studied. In water, these components self-assemble in seconds into a stable and powerful tool for monitoring chemical reactions.

The semiconductors in this enclosed small nanocamera observe photocatalysis and track light-induced electron transfer, similar to the electron transfer process in photosynthesis, and this process of collecting photoelectrons is monitored by gold nanoparticle sensors and spectroscopy.

In contrast to previous experiments, the researchers could use the nanocamera to observe compounds that had previously only been studied in theory. The new nanocamera opens up the world of compounds during chemical reactions, and in the future this material can be used to study some potential compounds with rich functions, such as improving photocatalysis and photovoltaic renewable energy.

In actual scientific research, the research team shared that in order to develop new materials, it is often necessary to combine different chemical substances together. It is very difficult to obtain hybrid nanomaterials with excellent performance, and most experiments will eventually be uncontrolled or obtained. Some unstable materials. The researchers controlled the assembly of these nanoparticles through an interfacial self-limiting aggregation process they created, which produces a permeable and stable hybrid material that interacts with light.

At the molecular level, various compounds in nature restrict the generation of complex structures through their own chemical properties. It is very difficult to simulate these chemical life processes in the laboratory, which is time-consuming and expensive, and even the generation of some compounds The observation cannot be monitored by the detection instrument.

The new nanocamera is very simple to assemble, yet very powerful, and its structure is stable for weeks. Guar gum, which connects particles and semiconductors, strongly interacts with both semiconductor nanocrystals and gold nanoparticles. Previously, in the absence of quantum dots, when gold nanoparticles were mixed with molecular glue, their components would aggregate indefinitely and escape from solution. fall off. The newly developed strategy makes the assembly process of these nanostructures mutually restrictive, and the semiconductor-metal hybrid material restricts itself in size and shape during the experiment.

When the researchers put the nanocamera to the test, using spectroscopy instruments to monitor chemical reactions in real time, they were able to observe the formation of free radical species and the products of their combination, such as two of which form a reversible carbon-carbon bond, the free radical. It has always been in the process of theoretical derivation, but it has never been observed.

The researchers say the nanocamera offers the opportunity to simultaneously induce and observe photochemical reactions, and the full potential of semiconductor and plasmonic nanocrystals can now be explored. It opens up many new possibilities for imaging chemical reactions and by taking snapshots of monitored chemical systems.

The simple setup lets researchers say goodbye to previous complex, expensive methods to achieve the same results. It is reported that this platform will open a wide range of experiments, including many materials critical to sustainable technologies such as electrode interfaces for battery applications and the mechanism of carbon-carbon bond formation.

Spectrometer: “Plotting” head-to-tail reactions

Chemical reaction is a relatively complex process, often accompanied by a variety of side reactions, and a variety of intermediate products are often generated during the reaction process, which brings a lot of work to the research of researchers. At present, spectrometers and chromatographs are the most common ways to monitor chemical reactions in real time. They can record some organic chemical reaction processes to reveal the microscopic mechanism and reaction process of chemical reactions.

In the field of organic analytical science, researchers use spectrometers and chromatographs to reasonably control the reaction process and end point, infer the organic reaction mechanism by studying the reactants, intermediates and products in the reaction system, and regulate the organic reaction process. effect on conversion and product quality.

For example, the regioselectivity of the reaction can be improved by observing the changes of reactants and products over time, thereby optimizing the reaction, and it can also prevent the occurrence of reactions that may change its pharmacological activity in drug production, and exclude and avoid the occurrence of side reactions.

For some emerging materials research, the existing reaction monitoring methods may lag behind the development of synthetic chemistry. It is necessary for researchers who understand pain points and technologies to independently conduct research on new methods and update real-time monitoring technology. The new nano-camera is a good example of expanding research. Using the nanotechnology method in technological development, the reaction changes at the microscopic level can be monitored in real time, which has brought great help to the research of chemical experimental processes for researchers.

Every new synthetic material, synthetic drug, etc. we use has been tested thousands of times by scientific researchers

For the layman, the small invention and progress are just watching the excitement, unable to empathize with the change and joy, but for the layman, it is a qualitative leap in work and research. Take the breaking news in the field of life sciences as an example. DeepMind’s AlphaFold2 model has predicted almost all 98.5% of human proteins. On this basis, researchers can happily explore the life code in proteins. People can’t get what the AlphaFold2 model tool brings to protein research at all.

Going back to the research of nanocameras, the new type of nanocameras can capture the process of photocatalysis and track light-induced electron transfer at the microscopic level of chemical reactions, revolutionizing the fact that compound products previously only existed in theory, researchers only need to simply Operation can complete this in-depth observation at the micro level. In the long run, the discovery of new compounds by this nanocamera covers a huge field, which is a bit like opening a blind box. Behind a small technological change, you don’t know what new surprises will be opened in the future because of it. In the process of preparing new compounds, scientific research and innovative technology have always been a development process of spiral and synchronous growth. If the research does not stop, the supporting innovative technology will continue.

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