Researchers Uncover a New Way Heat Travels Between Molecules

A new model, developed by Penn chemists, could be the first step towards better harnessing heat energy to power nanoscale devices. Abraham Nitzan, professor of chemistry , and Galen Craven, a postdoc in his lab, used new information about how to measure temperature on a nanoscale to revisit the mechanism of heat transfer. They created a model to find out how a temperature gradient affects molecular interaction, focusing in on the process of electron transfer.

Their findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences, show that heat transfer occurs when the electron moves between two molecules that are at different temperatures.

Electron transfer is possibly the most important process in chemistry, according to Nitzan.

“Half of chemistry is electron transfer processes,” he says. “It has been investigated for 100 years on the molecular scale.”

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