John Polanyi began his studies in the dynamics of chemical reactions at the National Research Council in Ottawa, but moved to the Chemistry Department at the University of Toronto in 1956. There he continued studying what goes on when molecules combine in reactions. He and his graduate student, Ken Cashion, developed a reaction chamber with which they could control the reactions and thereby study the tiny amount of energy released (called chemiluminescence) using an infrared spectrometer. Analyzing these light emission patterns let them see exactly how atoms combine. Their discoveries eventually led to the development of the chemical lasers, which have high power and thus a wide variety of applications. It also led Polanyi to a Nobel prize in chemistry in 1986.
John Polanyi began his studies in the dynamics of chemical reactions at the National Research Council in Ottawa, but moved to the Chemistry Department at the University of Toronto in 1956. There he continued studying what goes on when molecules combine in reactions. He and his graduate student, Ken Cashion, developed a reaction chamber with which they could control the reactions and thereby study the tiny amount of energy released (called chemiluminescence) using an infrared spectrometer. Analyzing these light emission patterns let them see exactly how atoms combine. Their discoveries eventually led to the development of the chemical lasers, which have high power and thus a wide variety of applications. It also led Polanyi to a Nobel prize in chemistry in 1986.

© 2001, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

ReactionChamber

This reaction chamber was key to Polanyi and Cashion´s success in studying the nature of chemical reactions. Controlling the rate of reactions, sometimes potentially explosive (hydrogen + chlorine), was essential to be able to see how the nature of the emissions changed as the event progressed. The IR spectrometer was modified to allow them to track these changes. Reaction chamber allows controlled chemical reactions for study of energy emitted with the IR spectrometer.

Made by John Polanyi, Ken Cashion, Univ. of Toronto; Perkin-Emer Corp., Norwalk, CT (spectrometer)
Canada Science and Technology Museum
c. 1958-1960
910395, 910398
© 2001, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Identify and appreciate the way history and culture shape a society’s science and technology
  • Describe scientific and technological developments, past and present, and appreciate their impact on individuals and societies
  • Describe how Canadians have contributed to science and technology on the global stage

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