Quantum effects may outweigh steric hindrance in molecular structures

from the itís-the-little-things dept.
An article in Science News ("Molecular Chemistry Takes a New Twist", by J. Gorman, 2 June 2001) describes new calculations by a research team at Rutgers University that seem to show that a basic tenet of chemistry is wrong: Ethane forms its most stable structure not due to so-called steric effects, but because of a quantum mechanical influence. This research is important because chemists have long attributed many of the structural properties of organic molecules to steric effects. As the article concludes, "Researchers can no longer assume that steric effects play the major role in determining stable forms . . . They should give more attention to quantum mechanical effects when studying biological molecules and processes such as protein folding."

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