After over a century of study, scientists at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev have finally observed a crucial missing piece in the ethane pyrolysis reaction. This discovery has the potential to make these reactions more efficient, leading to increased production of vital chemicals like plastics while reducing material waste, byproducts, pollution, and energy consumption.
Published in Angewandte Chemie, the researchers, alongside their US and Swiss colleagues, detected an elusive intermediate that plays a vital role in driving these chemical reactions. This breakthrough could pave the way for cleaner and more efficient processes, benefiting industries dealing with plastics and natural gas.
Led by Dr. Josh Baraban, the team’s Ph.D. student, Nadav Genossar-Dan, played a crucial role in both the theoretical and practical aspects of the experiment. Their efforts targeted ethylidene, a radical closely related to ethane and ethyl, leading to this momentous observation.
The experiment involved a flash pyrolysis technique, heating the molecule until it breaks apart for an extremely short duration (a tenth of a millisecond). To achieve this, they required a synchrotron, a rare tool based on an electron accelerator, capable of generating vacuum ultraviolet light. Booking time in the Swiss Light Source synchrotron, they worked tirelessly with theirteam and hosting scientists to conduct the experiments.
What makes this achievement even more extraordinary is that since the 1930s, no researcher had succeeded in observing this critical intermediate. Thanks to Genossar-Dan’s meticulous modeling, the experiments’ results were fully understood and explained.
As they move forward, these findings open up new possibilities for further advancements in chemical processes, driven by this groundbreaking observation. The team’s dedication and hard work have made a significant impact on the history of chemistry.
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