For many decades, the concept of a “rate-determining step” has been of central importance in understanding chemical kinetics in multistep reaction mechanisms and using that understanding to advantage. Yet a rigorous method for identifying the rate-determining step in a reaction mechanism was only recently introduced, via the “degree of rate control” of elementary steps. By extending that idea, we argue that even more useful than identifying the rate-determining step is identifying the rate-controlling transition states and the rate-controlling intermediates. These identify a few distinct chemical species whose relative energies we could adjust to achieve a faster or slower net reaction rate. Their relative energies could be adjusted by a variety of practical approaches, such as adding or modifying a catalyst, modifying the solvent, or simply modifying a reactant’s molecular structure to affect electronic or steric control on the relative energies of the key species. Since these key species are the ones whose relative energies most strongly influence the net reaction rate, they also identify the species whose energetics must be most accurately measured or calculated to achieve an accurate kinetic model for any reaction mechanism. Thus, it is very important to identify these rate-controlling transition states and rate-controlling intermediates for both applied and basic research. Here, we present a method for doing that.
- Materials characterization and modelling
- Materials research