Scientists manipulate quantum mechanics to slow down a chemical reaction by 100 billion times

For the first time, scientists have directly observed a molecular dance that’s crucial to basic chemical reactions such as photosynthesis. And they’ve done it by using a quantum computer to slow down a chemical reaction by a mind-boggling 100 billion times. 

The new study, published Aug. 28 in the journal Nature Chemistry, focused on a kind of molecular interaction known as a conical intersection. Conical intersections are points in the geometry of molecules where the energy between two surfaces is equal. They act a bit like funnels between electronic states, allowing for quick transitions that usher along chemical reactions. Conical intersections occur in a lot of reactions, including everyday ones like photosynthesis and the light-detecting reactions that take place in the retina.

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