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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Aug 1;97(16):8874-8.

Toward elimination of discrepancies between theory and experiment: the rate constant of the atmospheric conversion of SO3 to H2SO4.

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  • 1Institute of General, Inorganic, and Theoretical Chemistry, University of Innsbruck, Innrain 52a, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria.


The hydration rate constant of sulfur trioxide to sulfuric acid is shown to depend sensitively on water vapor pressure. In the 1:1 SO3-H2O complex, the rate is predicted to be slower by about 25 orders of magnitude compared with laboratory results [Lovejoy, E. R., Hanson, D. R. & Huey, L. G. (1996) J. Phys. Chem. 100, 19911-19916; Jayne, J. T., Poschl, U., Chen, Y.-m., Dai, D., Molina, L. T., Worsnop, D. R., Kolb, C. E. & Molina, M. J. (1997) J. Phys. Chem. A 101, 10000-10011]. This discrepancy is removed mostly by allowing a second and third water molecule to participate. An asynchronous water-mediated double proton transfer concerted with the nucleophilic attack and a double proton transfer accompanied by a transient H3O+ rotation are predicted to be the fastest reaction mechanisms. Comparison of the predicted negative apparent "activation" energies with the experimental finding indicates that in our atmosphere, different reaction paths involving two and three water molecules are taken in the process of forming sulfate aerosols and consequently acid rain.

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