Climbing over Energy Barriers: A New Paradigm for Accelerating Kinetics

Christine Orme | 19-DR-001

Project Overview

The need to control and increase reaction rates is ubiquitous in industrial settings and laboratories. This project explored a new paradigm for accelerating the kinetics of chemical reactions by using stochastic electric noise fields to mimic the effect of increasing temperature. This concept was tested on materials growing from solution -- systems where the reaction rate manifested as material growth.

Our first accomplishment was to demonstrate the ubiquity of our approach by testing several classes of material systems to determine where the application of stochastic electric fields led to growth rate enhancements. We showed that stochastic electric field assisted growth resulted in a >10x growth rate enhancement in metals electrodeposited from solution, in sparingly soluble mineral systems such as calcite and brushite, and in a semiconductor system CuS.

Our second major accomplishment took a deeper dive into the metallic system where we demonstrated that the growth rate scales with the Debye length providing evidence for our hypothesis. Our third accomplishment was to refine experiments to reduce variability inherent in nucleation processes and to reduce electrochemical effects such as galvanic coupling and interfacial pH shifts that can obscure purely thermal effects.

Mission Impact

We demonstrated that stochastic heating increases reaction rates by more than an order of magnitude compared to baseline rates. We expect this new methodology will find applications in fundamental interfacial science, catalysis, corrosion, electrodeposition, biophysics, and accelerated aging. These topics cut across many national, DOE, and NNSA missions including advanced materials and manufacturing, carbon management, and target fabrication for the National Ignition Facility.

Publications, Presentations, and Patents

Flanders, B., K. Panta, X. Xu, and C. Orme. "Ion Heating and Rate Enhancement by Stochastic Noise Fields." Invited Presentation, American Association for Crystal Growth, Fallen Leaf Lake, CA. June 13, 2022.

Flanders, B., K. Panta, and C.A. Orme. "Stochastic Heating at an Electrochemical Interface." IL-13516A, Provisional Patent 63/138.405. Jan. 16, 2019.