PerspectiveQuantum Chemistry

Flipping carbon monoxide on a salt surface

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Science  10 Jan 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6474, pp. 148-149
DOI: 10.1126/science.aba1100

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Summary

The adsorption of carbon monoxide (CO) molecules on solid surfaces is a classic model system in fundamental surface science. In most previous studies, this diatomic CO molecule adsorbs normal to the surface with the carbon atom pointing downward. This configuration is referred to as the “C-down” adsorption geometry. On page 175 of this issue, Lau et al. (1) report an unexpected upside-down isomer of CO molecules adsorbed on a NaCl(100) surface, referred to as the “O-down” adsorption geometry. The observation of an O-down orientational isomer, interconverting with the normal C-down isomer, reveals an isomerizing double-well quantum system in the condensed phase. The distinct interactions of the two orientational isomers with the NaCl(100) surface, repulsive for the O-down and attractive for the C-down at the Na+ adsorption sites, enrich the scenarios for CO molecule adsorptions. These results call for new and accurate theoretical studies of condensed-phase quantum isomerization.

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