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Virginia Tech studies reveal reaction pathways for ozone on organic surfaces

Virginia Tech chemistry researchers have made a discovery about how ozone degrades organic surfaces such as biological surfactants and polymeric coatings.

The research will be presented at the 231st American Chemical Society (ACS) national meeting being held in Atlanta on March 26-30.

John Morris’ group is studying the reactions of small molecules found in pollution of surfaces. Morris, associate professor of chemistry in the College of Science, and his students are looking specifically at hydrochloric acid (HCl) and triatomic oxygen (O3, a toxic form of oxygen), pollutants known to play a major role in atmosphere chemistry. They are using functionalized self-assembled monolayers (thin films – one molecule thick) to simulate organic surfaces. "It gives us control of the surface structure and chemical functionality so we can study how those aspects of a surface influence the fate of important gas-surface collisions," Morris said.

The experiments have led to a detailed understanding of the reaction mechanisms of HC1 and ozone on organic surfaces, which is what Morris will present in the paper authored by graduate student Larry R. Fiegland, Morris, and graduate student B. Scott Day.

A major finding is that ozone reacts with carbon-carbon double bonds to form crosslinked networks within the thin film. Carbon-carbon double bonds are the very strong forces that link carbon atoms together to help form long-chain molecules -- major components of many polymeric materials found in everyday life. "The formation of crosslinked networks is a new discovery – that provides a fundamental understanding of how, on the molecular level, organic surfaces degrade with prolonged exposure to ozone, a major atmospheric pollutant," Morris said. "Understanding the reaction mechanism may someday lead to more robust films for organic coatings, or polymeric coatings, such as paints."

Susan Trulove | EurekAlert!
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