Theoretical Studies of the Energetics and Dynamics of Chemical Reactions

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Science  22 Apr 1988:
Vol. 240, Issue 4851, pp. 453-459
DOI: 10.1126/science.240.4851.453


Computational studies of basic chemical processes not only provide numbers for comparison with experiment or for use in modeling complex chemical phenomena such as combustion, but also provide insight into the fundamental factors that govern molecular structure and change which cannot be obtained from experiment alone. We summarize the results of three case studies, on HCO, OH + H2, and O + C2H2, which illustrate the range of problems that can be addressed by using modern theoretical techniques. In all cases, the potential energy surfaces were characterized by using ab initio electronic structure methods. Collisions between molecules leading to reaction or energy transer were described with quantum dynamical methods (HCO), classical trajectory techniques (HCO and OH + H2), and statistical methods (HCO, OH + H2, and O + C2H2). We can anticipate dramatic increases in the scope of this work as new generations of computers are introduced and as new chemistry software is developed to exploit these computers.

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