Lateral Hopping Requires Molecular Rocking

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Science  16 Dec 2005:
Vol. 310, Issue 5755, pp. 1774-1775
DOI: 10.1126/science.1122123

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Surface chemical reactions are essential to many important industrial processes, but little is known about the details of the reaction mechanism on molecular time and length scales. In their Perspective, Ueba and Wolf discuss results reported in the same issue by Backus et al. in which ultrafast laser spectroscopy revealed how carbon monoxide molecules move on a platinum surface. Rather than being driven solely by translational modes, the molecules must undergo a rotation or rocking before they can hop from place to place on the surface. The ability to follow such motion on time scales relevant to chemical reactions should provide insights essential for understanding a wide range of surface processes.