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Chemistry Print

Chemical science at the ALS encompasses a broad range of approaches and specializations, including surfaces/interfaces, catalysis, chemical dynamics (gas-phase chemistry), crystallography, and physical chemistry.

By one estimate, nearly 80% of all chemical reactions in nature and in human technology take place at boundaries between phases, i.e., at surfaces or interfaces. Atomic- and molecular-scale studies are needed to develop a thorough understanding of the relationships between surface properties and parameters relevant to potential applications and devices.

Catalysts play a central role in processes relevant to energy, the environment, and biology. Researchers are working to develop cheaper and smarter catalysts that are fine tuned to accelerate reactions that, for example, drive fuel-refinement, sweep toxins from emissions, or convert starch to sugar.

Predictive models of combustion and atmospheric chemistry rely on the field of chemical dynamics to understand gas-phase chemical processes. At the ALS, dedicated, intense, tunable vacuum-ultraviolet (VUV) light is combined with state-of-the-art molecular-beam machines for a broad range of studies of fundamental chemical processes.

A revolution in material-synthesis techniques is driving the need for solving the structures of small-molecule systems with small crystal sizes. The ALS provides the intense x-ray radiation necessary for studies of crystals that, because they are extremely small or weakly diffracting, would be difficult or impossible to study on standard laboratory systems.

In addition to the above, many ALS physical chemistry experiments aim to develop a fundamental understanding—at the molecular, atomic, and electronic level—of how chemical properties such as bonding and electronic state affect behavior and how chemical reactions occur.

Chemistry Highlights

Surfaces/Interfaces, Catalysts, Chemical Dynamics, Crystallography, Physical Chemistry, Biochemistry


A Surface Treatment for Improving Fuel-Cell Cathodes

New Technique Gives a Deeper Look into the Chemistry of Interfaces

Compositional Variation Within Hybrid Nanostructures

Looking at Transistor Gate Oxide Formation in Real Time

Diamondoid Monolayers as Monochromatic Electron Source

Breakthrough Research on Platinum–Nickel Alloys

Hydrogen Storage in Carbon Nanotubes Through Formation of C-H Bonds


New Catalyst Boosts Selective Formation of Olefins from Syngas

An Atomic-Level Understanding of Copper-Based Catalysts

ALS X-Rays Shine a New Light on Catalysis

From CO2 to Methanol via Novel Nanocatalysts

Infrared Mapping Helps Optimize Catalytic Reactions

Chemistry of Cobalt-Platinum Nanocatalysts

Platinum Nanoclusters Out-Perform Single Crystals

Compositional Variation Within Hybrid Nanostructures

Reaction-Driven Restructuring of Bimetallic Nanoparticle Catalysts

Nanoscale Chemical Imaging of a Working Catalyst

Breakthrough Research on Platinum–Nickel Alloys

Chemical Dynamics

Tracking the Elusive QOOH Radical

ALS Evidence Confirms Combustion Theory

Studying the Solar System's Chemical Recipe

A Surprising Path for Proton Transfer Without Hydrogen Bonds

Direct Kinetic Measurements of a Criegee Intermediate

Experimental Test of Self-Shielding in VUV Photodissociation of CO

Enol Intermediates Unexpectedly Found in Flames


A Fullerene that Breaks the Rules

Cool Magnetic Molecules

The Surprising Appearance of Nanotubular Fullerene D5h(1)-C90

Solving the Unsovlable: The Nanostructure of Gold at 1.1 Å Resolution

Physical Chemistry

Record-Setting Microscopy Illuminates Energy Storage Materials

An Inside Look at a MOF in Action

Covalent Bonding in Actinide Sandwich Molecules

Trending: Metal Oxo Bonds

Biomimetic Dye Molecules for Solar Cells

Hybrid Rotaxanes: Interlocked Structures for Quantum Computing?

Isotope and Temperature Effects in Liquid Water Probed by Soft X Rays

Electronic Structure of Cobalt Nanocrystals Suspended in Liquid

The Iron Spin Transition in the Earth's Lower Mantle

Particles from Comet 81P/Wild 2 Viewed by ALS Microscopes

Mapping the Nanoscale Landscape

Time-Resolved Study of Bonding in Liquid Carbon

Composition and Reactions of Atmospheric Aerosol Particles

Energetics of Hydrogen Bond Network Rearrangements in Liquid Water


Iron is the Key to Preserving Dinosaur Soft Tissue

Formation of Metallic Copper Nanoparticles at the Soil-Root Interface

Real-Time Chemical Imaging of Bacterial Biofilm Development

Preservation of Fe(II) by Carbon-Rich Matrices in Hydrothermal Plumes

Extracellular Proteins Promote Zinc Sulfide Aggregation