Reactions of Solvated Electrons Initiated by Sodium Atom Ionization at the Vacuum-Liquid Interface

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Science  02 Mar 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6072, pp. 1072-1075
DOI: 10.1126/science.1215956

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Setting Atoms Free

In a plasma, gaseous atoms and molecules accumulate so much energy that they fall apart into electrons and all manner of bigger charged fragments. Free electrons can also wreak a degree of havoc within a liquid environment as they generate local reactive fragments, which then couple with the surrounding solvent to form a slew of products. Alexander et al. (p. 1072) explored what happens if reactive electrons emerged at the surface of such a liquid. To generate these conditions, they bombarded a shallow film of deuterated glycerol with sodium atoms that ionized on impact and discovered, in contrast with bulk liquid, that solvent-derived deuterium atoms escaped from the surface into the gas phase before they could react any further.