Vibrational excitation induces double reaction

Kai Huang, Lydie Leung, Tingbin Lim, Zhanyu Ning, John C. Polanyi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Electron-induced reaction at metal surfaces is currently the subject of extensive study. Here, we broaden the range of experimentation to a comparison of vibrational excitation with electronic excitation, for reaction of the same molecule at the same clean metal surface. In a previous study of electron-induced reaction by scanning tunneling microscopy (STM), we examined the dynamics of the concurrent breaking of the two C-I bonds of ortho-diiodobenzene physisorbed on Cu(110). The energy of the incident electron was near the electronic excitation threshold of E0 = 1.0 eV required to induce this single-electron process. STM has been employed in the present work to study the reaction dynamics at the substantially lower incident electron energies of 0.3 eV, well below the electronic excitation threshold. The observed increase in reaction rate with current was found to be fourth-order, indicative of multistep reagent vibrational excitation, in contrast to the first-order rate dependence found earlier for electronic excitation. The change in mode of excitation was accompanied by altered reaction dynamics, evidenced by a different pattern of binding of the chemisorbed products to the copper surface. We have modeled these altered reaction dynamics by exciting normal modes of vibration that distort the C-I bonds of the physisorbed reagent. Using the same ab initio ground potential-energy surface as in the prior work on electronic excitation, but with only vibrational excitation of the physisorbed reagent in the asymmetric stretch mode of C-I bonds, we obtained the observed alteration in reaction dynamics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12468-12475
Number of pages8
JournalACS Nano
Issue number12
StatePublished - 23 Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • ab initio computations
  • electronic excitation
  • molecular dynamics
  • scanning tunneling microscopy
  • single-molecule reaction
  • surface science
  • vibrational excitation


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