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Science. 2005 Aug 19;309(5738):1223-7. Epub 2005 Jul 14.

Ultrafast x-ray diffraction of transient molecular structures in solution.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry and School of Molecular Science (BK21), Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), Daejeon, 305-701, Republic of Korea.


We report direct structural evidence of the bridged radical (CH2ICH2.) in a polar solution, obtained using time-resolved liquid-phase x-ray diffraction. This transient intermediate has long been hypothesized to explain stereo-chemical control in many association and/or dissociation reactions involving haloalkanes. Ultrashort optical pulses were used to dissociate an iodine atom from the haloethane molecule (C2H4I2) dissolved in methanol, and the diffraction of picosecond x-ray pulses from a synchrotron supports the following structural dynamics, with approximately 0.01 angstrom spatial resolution and approximately 100 picosecond time resolution: The loss of one iodine atom from C2H4I2 leads to the C-I-C triangular geometry of CH2ICH2.. This transient C2H4I then binds to an iodine atom to form a new species, the C2H4I-I isomer, which eventually decays into C2H4 + I2. Solvent dynamics were also extracted from the data, revealing a change in the solvent cage geometry, heating, and thermal expansion.

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