Archiviertes Physik-Kolloquium:

24. Nov. 2016, 16:15 Uhr, Gebäude NW1, Raum H3

The dynamics of molecular interactions and chemical reactions at metal surfaces: Testing the foundations of theory

Prof. Dr. Alex. M. Wodtke, Institute for Physical Chemistry, Georg August University of Göttingen and Department of Dynamics at Surfaces, Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen

In 1929, Nobel Laureate Paul Dirac made comments to the effect that Chemistry had been solved. With the advent of quantum mechanics "The underlying physical laws necessary for the mathematical theory of… …the whole of chemistry are… …completely known…. However, on a practical level computational chemistry is still in an early stage of development." Dirac went on: "the difficulty is only that the exact application of these laws leads to equations much too complicated to be soluble." Despite electrifying advances in computational power since that time, Dirac is still right. The theory of chemistry requires approximations before theoretical descriptions and predictions of chemical reactions can be made. The advent of the Born-Oppenheimer Approximation led to the development of the standard model of chemical reactivity where the electronically adiabatic potential energy surface for nuclear motion is derived and quantum motion of the nuclei on that surface can be calculated. For simple gas phase reactions, this approach has become an extraordinarily useful and reliable tool. For surface chemistry, additional approximations are commonly made: 1) classical mechanics for describing nuclear motion, 2) density functional theory (usually at the generalized gradient level) for calculating electronic states, 3) reduced dimensionality approximations and as before 4) the Born-Oppenheimer approximation to separate electronic and nuclear degrees of freedom. I call this collection of approximations the provisional model for surface chemistry as we in the field are still testing and improving it. In this talk, I will describe how a fruitful interplay between experiment and theory can lead to accurate atomic