Chemical reactions are an intricate part of our lives. They are everywhere and exhibit so much complexity that it can be often hard to easily tell when one has happened or what the effect of that reaction is.
From simple actions such as turning your doorknob to more complex ones like digestion of food in the body system, chemical reactions are totally involved, though the scale and scope might differ.
In order to understand the full extent and implication of a chemical reaction it is only logical for us to understand the process the reacting entity took to arrive at it's transformed form.
The nature of chemical reactions is in such a way that the sequence and speed of the reaction is usually not visible under normal conditions.
If we are being sarcastic we could simply suggest that we could get past that hindrance by slowing down time and observing time on a micro scale like in the movies, but I guess we can all agree that the likelihood of that is very nearly zero if it isn't already.
However, that doesn't mean the entirety of a chemical reaction cannot be observed from start to finish because actually, with the right know-how it is very possible.
Femtochemistry is the science that involves the study of chemical reactions on an atomic level in order to fully understand how the reacting body came to its present state and possibly how that reaction can be altered if need be to achieve desired results.
In femtochemistry, the duration of chemical reactions is judged based on a timescale known as femtosecond.
It is believed that within a femtosecond, which is said to be approximately 10-15 seconds a body undergoing reaction would have changed so much that the extent and reason for the change needs to be understood in order to understand the future changes at future stages of the reaction.
Both aforementioned terms were used perhaps for the first time by Ahmed Zewail in 1988 in a statement stating that 'Real-time femtochemistry, that is, chemistry on the femtosecond timescale'
Ahmed Zewail is also regarded as the first scientist to discover that through the use of high speed lasers we can determine the state of a body before and during a chemical reaction.
He went on to pioneer a number of other things within the field of femtochemistry eventually winning a Nobel prize for it in 1999.
Experiments in femtochemistry
Over time, experiments and studies has been made into the true nature of reactions using femtochemistry.
From isomerization reactions in organic reaction processes to the observation of bond breakage and formation processes in elementary reactions, femtochemistry has indeed shed a lot of light on what goes on under the hood in the molecular world.
A lot of fields under the umbrella of chemistry have also benefitted from the applications of femtochemistry and many more will continue to benefit as more ground breaking discoveries are made in the field.
A good application of femtochemistry
Using a free-electron laser known as LCLS, or in full Linac Coherent Light Source which provides high speed Xrays which run repeatedly at intervals in order to get updated information about the molecular state of the body being observed.
LCLS can be used to better understand the processes of photosynthesis, photo-dissociation reactions among others.
What are your thoughts on femtochemistry, kindly share in the comments.