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Toshiki Shimizu, Dominik Lungerich*, Koji Harano*, and Eiichi Nakamura*
Time-Resolved Imaging of Stochastic Cascade Reactions over a Submillisecond to Second Time Range at the Angstrom Level
J. Am. Chem. Soc., 144 (22), 9797-9805
Date: May 24, 2022

Many chemical reactions, such as multistep catalytic cycles, are cascade reactions in which a series of transient intermediates appear and disappear stochastically over an extended period. The mechanisms of such reactions are challenging to study, even in ultrafast pump−probe experiments. The dimerization of a van der Waals dimer of [60]fullerene producing a short carbon nanotube is a typical cascade reaction and is probably the most frequently studied in carbon materials chemistry. As many as 23 intermediates were predicted by theory, but only the first stable one has been verified experimentally. With the aid of fast electron microscopy, we obtained cinematographic recordings of individual molecules at a maximum frame rate of 1600 frames per second. Using Chambolle total variation algorithm processing and automated cross-correlation image matching analysis, we report on the identification of several metastable intermediates by their shape and size. Although the reaction events occurred stochastically, varying the lifetime of each intermediate accordingly, the average lifetime for each intermediate structure could be obtained from statistical analysis of many cinematographic images for the cascade reaction. Among the shortest-living intermediates, we detected one that lasted less than 3 ms in three independent cascade reactions. We anticipate that the rapid technological development of microscopy and image processing will soon initiate an era of cinematographic studies of chemical reactions and cinematic chemistry.

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