Steric Effects in the Chemisorption of Vibrationally Excited Methane on Ni(100)

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Science  30 Jul 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5991, pp. 553-556
DOI: 10.1126/science.1191751

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Tilting Toward Reaction

Collisions between molecules and metal surfaces underlie many of the catalytic pathways that transform natural feedstocks into fuels and commodity chemical compounds. One such reaction, in which nickel strips hydrogen from methane, depends on whether the methyl C-H bonds are vibrating just before the molecule strikes the surface. Yoder et al. (p. 553) now delve deeper into this system. By aligning incoming molecular samples using polarized infrared light, they show that the hydrocarbon reacts most readily when it is vibrating parallel, rather than perpendicular, to the surface.