Chemical Kinetics Under Test

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Science  28 Jan 2011:
Vol. 331, Issue 6016, pp. 411-412
DOI: 10.1126/science.1201509

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The dependence of reaction rates on the isotopic identity of the reactants and products, called the “kinetic isotope effect” (13), is a manifestation of the role quantum zero-point energy plays in chemical kinetics and is a consequence of the Born-Oppenheimer (BO) separation of electronic and nuclear motion in molecules (4, 5). On page 448 of this issue, Fleming et al. (6) use muon chemistry to probe the range of nuclear masses over which this approximation is valid for the chemical reaction H + H2 → H2 + H (7).