EAST LANSING, Mich. - Trihydrogen, or H3+, is acknowledged by scientists as the molecule that made the universe. In recent issues of Nature Communications and the Journal of Chemical Physics, Michigan State University researchers employed high-speed lasers to shine a spotlight on the mechanisms that are key in H3+ creation and its unusual chemistry.
H3+ is prevalent in the universe, the Milky Way, gas giants and the Earth's ionosphere. It's also being created and studied in the lab of Marcos Dantus, University Distinguished Professor in chemistry and physics. Using ultrafast lasers - and technology invented by Dantus - a team of scientists is beginning to understand the chemistry of this iconic molecule.
"Observing how roaming H2 molecules evolve to H3+ is nothing short of astounding," Dantus said. "We first documented this process using methanol; now we've been able to expand and duplicate this process in a number of molecules and identified a number of new pathways."
Astrochemists see the big picture, observing H3+ and defining it through an interstellar perspective. It's created so fast - in less time than it takes a bullet to cross an atom - that it is extremely difficult to figure out how three chemical bonds are broken and three new ones are formed in such a short timescale.