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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A kinetic description of how interfaces accelerate reactions in micro-compartments


A kinetic expression is derived to explain how interfaces alter bulk chemical equilibria and accelerate reactions in micro-compartments. This description, aided by the development of a stochastic model, quantitatively predicts previous experimental observations of accelerated imine synthesis in micron-sized emulsions. The expression accounts for how reactant concentration and compartment size together lead to accelerated reaction rates under micro-confinement. These rates do not depend solely on concentration, but rather the fraction of total molecules in the compartment that are at the interface. Although there are ∼107 to 1013 solute molecules in a typical micro-compartment, a kind of "stochasticity" appears when compartment size and reagent concentration yield nearly equal numbers of bulk and interfacial molecules. Although this is distinct from the stochasticity produced by nano-confinement, these results show how interfaces can govern chemical transformations in larger atmospheric, geologic and biological compartments.

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