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Roaming Under the Microscope: Trajectory Study of Formaldehyde Dissociation

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journal contribution
posted on 17.02.2016, 00:00 by Paul L. Houston, Riccardo Conte, Joel M. Bowman
The photodissociation of formaldehyde was studied using quasi-classical trajectories to investigate “roaming,” or events involving trajectories that proceed far from the minimum energy pathway. Statistical analysis of trajectories performed over a range of nine excitation energies from 34 500 to 41 010 cm–1 (including zero-point energy) provides characterization of the roaming phenomenon and insight into the mechanism. The trajectories are described as projections onto three coordinates: the distance from the CO center of mass to the furthest H atom and the azimuthal and polar coordinates of that H atom with respect to the CO axis. The trajectories are used to construct a “minimum energy” potential energy surface showing the potential for any binary combination of these three coordinates that is at a minimum energy with respect to values of the other coordinates encountered during the trajectories. We also construct flux diagrams for roaming, transition-state, and radical pathways, as well as “reaction configuration” plots that show the distribution of reaction geometries for roaming and transition-state pathways. These constructs allow characterization of roaming in formaldehyde as, principally, internal rotation of the roaming H atom around the CO axis at a slowly varying and elongated distance from the CO center of mass. The rotation is nearly uniform, and is sometimes accompanied by rotation in the polar coordinate. The roaming state of formaldehyde can be treated as a separate kinetic entity, much as one might treat an isomer. Rate constants for the formation of and reaction from this roaming state are derived from the trajectory data as a function of excitation energy.