The solvation dynamics and reactivity of localized excess electrons in aqueous environments have attracted great attention in many areas of physics, chemistry, and biology. This manifold attraction results from the importance of water as a solvent in nature as well as from the key role of low-energy electrons in many chemical reactions. One prominent example is the electron-induced dissociation of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Low-energy electrons are also critical in the radiation chemistry that occurs in nuclear reactors.
Excess electrons in an aqueous environment are localized and stabilized by the local rearrangement of the surrounding water dipoles. Such solvated or hydrated electrons are known to play an important role in systems such as biochemical reactions and atmospheric chemistry. Despite numerous studies over many years, little is known about the microscopic details of these electron-induced chemical processes, and interest in the fundamental processes involved in the reactivity of trapped electrons continues.
In this Account, we present a surface science study of the dynamics and reactivity of such localized low-energy electrons at D2O crystallites that are supported by a Ru(001) single crystal metal surface. This approach enables us to investigate the generation and relaxation dynamics as well as dissociative electron attachment (DEA) reaction of excess electrons under well-defined conditions. They are generated by photoexcitation in the metal template and transferred to trapping sites at the vacuum interface of crystalline D2O islands. In these traps, the electrons are effectively decoupled from the electronic states of the metal template, leading to extraordinarily long excited state lifetimes on the order of minutes. Using these long-lived, low-energy electrons, we study the DEA to CFCl3 that is coadsorbed at very low concentrations (∼1012 cm2). Using rate equations and direct measurement of the change of surface dipole moment, we estimated the electron surface density for DEA, yielding cross sections that are orders of magnitude higher than the electron density measured in the gas phase.
The original publication is available by link DOI: 10.1021/ar200170s