Science and Engineering

Kansas State University

Bret Flanders, Chris Orme, Paul Smith
Manhattan, KS
June 2020

There is a general need to control and increase reaction rates in biology and chemistry.  Instead of using catalysts or applying heat to a reaction vessel, the goal of this project is to demonstrate that stochastic electric fields accelerate the kinetics of chemical and biochemical reactions, particularly those in vesicles.  The proposed mechanism for this rate-enhancement is that the fields elevate the kinetic energies of charged species in solution and, thus, amplify their effective temperature relative to the surrounding neutral solvent; consequently, they exhibit faster kinetics.  To test the validity of this mechanism, a team from Kansas State University and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory combine experimental and computational methods to pursue the following objectives: Objective 1 measures and models the temperature and temperature gradients near stochastically driven interfaces, establishing the basic principle of stochastic heating; Objective 2 measures and models the resultant reaction rates, establishing the benefit of this approach; Objective 3 tests whether reaction rates are enhanced at polarized but unwired interfaces; and, Objective 4 combines these concepts to investigate reactions in electrolyte filled spheres where the field is enhanced due to the geometry.  The significance of this work is that, if successful, it will provide a means of accelerating reaction kinetics that does not require catalysts, enzymes, or elevated temperatures.  Thus, this project broadens the classical Arrhenius picture of barrier crossing processes.  Because stochastic heating can work in conjunction with catalysts or hydrothermal reactors, this concept has the potential to be broadly adopted in fundamental interfacial science, biochemistry, synthesis, and catalysis.

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