Chemically Induced Electronic Excitations at Metal Surfaces

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Science  21 Dec 2001:
Vol. 294, Issue 5551, pp. 2521-2523
DOI: 10.1126/science.1066134

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The energy released in low-energy chemisorption or physisorption of molecules on metal surfaces is usually expected to be dissipated by surface vibrations (phonons). Theoretical descriptions of competing electronic excitations are incomplete, and experimental observation of excited charge carriers has been difficult except at energies high enough to eject electrons from the surface. We observed reaction-induced electron excitations during gas interactions with polycrystalline silver for a variety of species with adsorption energies between 0.2 and 3.5 electron volts. The probability of exciting a detectable electron increases with increasing adsorption energy, and the measured time dependence of the electron current can be understood in terms of the strength and mechanism of adsorption.

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