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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/V028839/1
Title: Complex Chemistry and Chemical Activation
Principal Investigator: Seakins, Professor P
Other Investigators:
Blitz, Dr MA
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
AirLabs Dassault Systemes Shell
Department: Sch of Chemistry
Organisation: University of Leeds
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 June 2021 Ends: 31 May 2024 Value (£): 809,674
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Gas & Solution Phase Reactions
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Chemicals Energy
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
09 Dec 2020 EPSRC Physical Sciences - December 2020 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Models of complex chemical processes such as combustion or atmospheric chemistry assume that the molecules taking part are thermalized, that is that their energy is characterized by the temperature of the system. Chemical activation (CA) occurs when the energy released by a reaction is channelled into the products and they have an energy greater than would be thermally predicted. How does the reactivity of these activated species compare with their thermalized equivalents? What is the significance of CA? How can CA be incorporated into chemical models of complex systems? These are the questions at the heart of our project: Complex Chemistry and Chemical Activation (C3A).

Aspects of CA have been known about for more than 100 years, indeed 2022 marks the centenary of the Lindemann Mechanism, the first theory proposed to explain the pressure dependence of some chemical reactions. Models of CA have grown in sophistication, yet uncertainties in key processes (energy transfer, calculation of densities of states) limit the accuracy of kinetic and thermodynamic predictions from such systems. Addressing the uncertainties in these aspects of current models through new experimental data and developments in fundamental models is one strand of C3A.

More recently, work in this group and elsewhere has shown that systems which were thought to be adequately modelled by thermalized reagents, such as abstraction reactions (e.g. OH + HCHO), do need to considered in the context of chemical activation. In a 2018 review, Klippenstein states: 'These studies ultimately led us to the realization that at combustion temperatures, the foundational assumption of thermalization prior to reaction is not always valid, and further that its breakdown significantly affects key combustion properties' (Proceedings of the Combustion Institute, 36, p77). These phenomena are not limited to combustion; plasma chemistry and the atmospheric chemistry of Earth and other planets provide other important examples of applications.

C3A is a collaboration between leading groups from Leeds and Oxford, both with interests in experiments and theory. C3A will generate a wealth of new experimental data, which in combination with theoretical interpretation, will allow us to assess the significance of CA in real systems and provide the tools to allow CA to be accurately incorporated into chemical models of of these processes. The impact of C3A to industry will be facilitated by collaborations with Shell, Dassault Systemes and AirLabs.

Such models are essential tools for understanding important questions from current highly practical issues (how can combustion systems be optimized to minimize CO2 emissions and improve air quality) to future questions (biofuels for aviation, novel methods of renewable energy storage such as ammonia generation and combustion) to important, fundamental questions such as modelling the atmospheres of hot-Jupiter exo-planets or the interstellar medium. The accurate assessment and incorporation of CA into such models will significantly enhance their reliability and predictive value.

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Organisation Website: http://www.leeds.ac.uk