Ruđer Bošković Institute Scientists Make Strides in Mechanochemistry

Lauren Simmonds

Ruđer Bošković

October the 2nd, 2023 – Of all the (many) Croatian institutions that exist, the remarkable Ruđer Bošković Institute always comes with brilliant news. A team of young scientists from this famed institution are making strides in a branch of chemistry which has the potential to change the world.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Borivoje Dokler writes, an innovative young team of Ruđer Bošković Institute scientists recently joined forces with their colleagues from the University of Cagliari to investigate the principles of chemical reactions stimulated by mechanical force. Their research results shed light on the intriguing connection between the rate of mechanochemical reactions and the energy absorbed by chemical samples during the grinding process.

These results not only provide a deeper understanding of mechanochemistry, but open the door to innovation in improving chemical reactions and designing more efficient milling processes in the future.

More international recognition for Ruđer Bošković scientists

These truly valuable results, which were recently published in the respected scientific journals Faraday Discussions and Angewandte Chemie International Edition. Behind them sit a team of scientists from the Laboratory for Solid State Synthesis and Catalysis at the Ruđer Bošković Institute. In addition to PhD student Leonarda Vugrin, the team consists of Goran Miletić, PhD, Marina Juribašić Kulcsár, PhD, and Ivan Halasz, PhD. The team of Croats also have their colleagues from the Italian University of Cagliari, PhD student Maria Carta, Professor Pier Carlo Ricci and Professor Francesco Delogu.

Efficient and ecological solutions

Thinking outside the framework of already well-known chemical laws that are applied when using solvents in chemical reactions, especially due to increasing concern for the environment, has contributed to an exponential growth in the number of researches on chemical transformations caused by the application of mechanical forces.

A special branch of chemistry that studies exactly how chemical reactions occur when substances under the influence of mechanical force change their structures and react faster is called mechanochemistry. It is precisely this branch of chemistry that has been ranked among the ten technologies that have the potential to change the world by the International Union for Pure and Applied Chemistry. Mechanochemical reactions are special chemical reactions that take place under the influence of mechanical force. Normally, chemical reactions occur when two substances are mixed in some kind of solution or, alternatively, in gas. However, in mechanochemical reactions, substances and grinding balls are placed in a vibrating reaction vessel in a ball mill.

That ball mill then creates a mechanical force that squeezes and changes the substances inside. This mechanical force changes the structure of the present molecules and helps speed up reactions. As such, with the help of the use of grinding balls, chemical reactions occur more quickly than they typically would, which opens up new opportunities for creating more efficient and environmentally friendly chemical processes in various industries.

Green chemistry, much like green energy, is proving popular and necessary

The concepts of “green chemistry” are gaining more and more importance, especially with regard to the development of tools that enable chemical reactions to be carried out in new ways, from the milligram to the kilogram scale. Research conducted by this team of talented Ruđer Bošković scientists contributes to a deeper understanding of the world of mechanochemistry.

“It’s precisely the monitoring of chemical reactions which occur during grinding and the investigation of the influence of mechanical energy on chemical changes that allows us to gain deeper insights into these processes. For mechanochemical reactions, energy transfer to the grinding system is crucial, and depending on the amount of energy transferred, the necessary conditions for chemical transformation are achieved.

Examining how different inputs of mechanical energy affects mechanochemical reactivity enables us to better understand these increasingly important processes,” explained Leonarda Vugrin.

New insights into otherwise complex processes

These new findings will allow scientists to plan and properly optimise mechanochemical reactions. If they know how to control energy transfer, scientists can improve these reactions and make them much more efficient. In addition, this knowledge can be used to compare different types of ball mills and understand which ones are more efficient for certain types of chemical reactions. This is useful because different reactions may require different milling conditions, and this research helps us understand which conditions work best,” Vugrin pointed out.

“As part of two studies, we examined how mechanical forces affects chemical reactions. We monitored the reactions in real time with Raman spectroscopy in situ, a technique we developed right here at the Ruđer Bošković Institute. In addition to that, we used specific kinetic models developed at the University of Cagliari to describe the experimental results. The results we reached gave us a lot of new insight into the processes which underline chemical transformations such as these, and represent a significant step towards understanding mechanochemistry,” explained Dr. Ivan Halasz, the head of the laboratory and the corresponding author of the paper.

Although more research is still needed before a complete mechanistic picture can be created, these results open up exciting opportunities for studying rapid reactions and creating innovative chemical processes. They also pave the way for more sustainable chemical processes to take place.

By eliminating the need for solvents and reducing reaction temperatures, mechanochemistry appears as a greener and more environmentally friendly alternative, significantly reducing the impact of chemical production on the environment.


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