X-ray Fingerprinting of Chemical Intermediates in Solution

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Science  19 Aug 2005:
Vol. 309, Issue 5738, pp. 1192-1193
DOI: 10.1126/science.1117325

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Diffraction methods involving the scattering of particles or photons have been widely successful in determining the structures of molecules. Time-resolved diffraction techniques have been especially useful for observing fast structural changes and short-lived chemical intermediate states in solids and in the gas phase. The solution environment, which is of greatest interest in biology and industrial chemical processing, has not been amenable to diffraction methods, however. In their Perspective, Anfinrud and Schotte discuss results reported in the same issue by Ihee et al. in which short pulses of x-rays were used to take the "fingerprint" of an intermediate molecular structure in solution. The ability to probe molecules in solution should offer many new insights into previously unexplored liquid-phase phenomena.