AUG 10, 2020 11:32 AM PDT

The musicality of chemical reactions

Researchers at the Center for Self-assembly and Complexity (CSC), within the Institute for Basic Science (IBS, South Korea) report the connection between chemical reactions and music, saying that music can control chemical reactions in solution. How does it do it? That’s where the composers come in.

While previous investigations have shown that the presence of music can improve plant cultivation and livestock breeding, this new link to chemical reactions is surprising because of the low energy associated with audible sound. Until now, scientists have limited their investigations to the effect that sound can have on the movement of water surface.

But the IBS team has shown that sound-generated water waves can fuel chemical reactions between air and liquid. By continuously supplying energy sources into the interface between air and the solution, audible sound (music) can trace patterns on the surface and bulk of the solution.

"With music working like a fuel for such artistic control in chemistry, our study has shown that even synthetic molecules can exhibit life-like behavior - listening and following a musical track," says Dr. Rahul Dev Mukhopadhyay, the co-first and -corresponding author of the study.

In their experiment, the researchers put water on a Petri dish on top of a speaker and later played music through the speaker. Depending on the frequency and the amplitude of the music, distinct surface wave patterns were produced.  

"Our study visualized a chemical environment that is partitioned into different molecular environments without any physical barrier, resembling cellular microenvironments. This is a novel discovery that may replace the common-sense belief that the pH of a solution is uniform throughout all of the vessel," notes Dr. Hwang Ilha, the co-first and -corresponding author of the study.

The researchers were able to test how atmospheric gases (read: CO2 and O2) dissolve into water via this vibrating air-water interphase. To do so they used O2-sensitive methyl viologen (MV2+/MV+* ) redox couple and CO2-sensitive pH indicator bromothymol blue (BTB) and tested them under various conditions.

Their findings have bigger implications that making cool, geometric patterns from an air-water interphase. "In fact, one aspect of a climate change study is about how CO2 concentration in the ocean changes depending on the movement of ocean waves. In retrospect, it makes sense that a wavy ocean is a more suitable condition for CO2 to be absorbed in the ocean than a still ocean. Our study has revealed the function of audible sound as a source for controlling chemical reactions, which occurs all around us, but has not been noticed till now," explains Dr. HWANG Ilha, the co-first and -corresponding author of the study.

Professor Kimoon Kim, Director of the IBS Center for Self-assembly and Complexity, concludes, "This is the first study to show that it is possible to control and visualize chemical reactions using audible sound. In the near future, we may further expand the scope of use of audible sound from chemistry to other fields, such as physics, fluid mechanics, chemical engineering and biology."

Photo: Pixabay

Sources: Eureka Alert

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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