The details involved in the breaking and forming of chemical bonds for reactions that take place in a solvent are still highly elusive. We are interested in studying chemical reactions that take place in quantum solvents liquid helium and solid hydrogen. Current interest focuses on conducting chemical reactions of atoms and molecules trapped in H2 ices at very low temperature (~4 K) that proceed via quantum tunneling mechanisms that can be triggered by vibrational excitation of the host hydrogen ice.
High-resolution infrared spectra of dopants (atoms and molecules) trapped in solid H2 contain peaks due to cooperative absorptions where the dopant and a small chunk of the surrounding solid hydrogen absorb a single photon of light. These cooperative absorptions violate all known selection rules and provide new spectroscopic signatures for the dynamics of delocalized vibrational excitations.
Our research has a variety of applications that range from the development of H2 as a green fuel (H2 storage, H2 catalysis in confined systems) to the chemistry that occurs in interstellar and planetary ices.