Matrix Isolation

The reactive molecules that Professor McMahon studeis are isolated by arranging for many argon atoms to come in between the reactive molecules. This is because the reactive molecules do not have the same properties as the more stable molecules they combine to make. Isolating the molecules keeps them in their reactive form because there are no neighboring molecules to react with.

To isolate the reactive molecules that Professor McMahon studies, they are separated by argon atoms. Argon is used because it is inert, that is, it does not react very readily with other species. The argon is frozen solid to ensure separation of the reactive molecules, since argon gas atoms would be able to move around and would not hold still long enough to separate anything. The frozen argon is called a "matrix" and the process of separating the molecules in frozen argon is called "matrix isolation". By surrounding the molecules with very unreactive atoms, we can keep them from reacting with each other.

Think about Jello with fruit in it. The jello would represent the argon atoms (matrix) and the fruit would represent the molecules!

Things To Think About