Extremely Fast Chemical Reactions
Presenter: Manfred Eigen
Published: March 2009
Age: 18-22 and upwards
Views: 1666 views
This interview starts with Eigen (Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1967) talking about his early work for his PhD thesis on fast reactions and measuring the specific heat of heavy water. He says that light water had already been measured in classical chemistry but not heavy water which was very expensive at that time (1947-48). Eigen’s first experiment ended in an explosion to the dismay of his supervisor but luckily he had conducted the first experiment without using heavy water. Eigen goes on to tells us about a project working with the British Navy and the Scripps Institute looking at sound absorption in sea water. Sea water absorbs sound very well and could be used to detect underground submarines. Eigen’s mission was to find out why this was so. In 1953 Eigen moved to the Max Planck Institutue to measure fast reactions. In 1916 Einstein had worked out a theory which Eigen then applied and worked out how to measure. In 1953 he went to a Faraday meeting on fast reactions where Eigen who was on his first visit to the UK asked how should he call his reactions ( which go to ten to the minus nine). He was told to call them ‘damned fast reactions’ and if that were not enough to describe them, ‘call them damned fast reactions indeed!’ Manfred Eigen continues, discussing his research in detail; the founding of a nanotechnology company based in Hamburg and Oxford making industrial enzymes and last but not least he discusses Darwin and population genetics. He says that his major concern on science and society issues is over population and population growth.