Research ArticlePHYSICS

Electric field–catalyzed single-molecule Diels-Alder reaction dynamics

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Science Advances  20 Jan 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 4, eabf0689
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abf0689


Precise time trajectories and detailed reaction pathways of the Diels-Alder reaction were directly observed using accurate single-molecule detection on an in situ label-free single-molecule electrical detection platform. This study demonstrates the well-accepted concerted mechanism and clarifies the role of charge transfer complexes with endo or exo configurations on the reaction path. An unprecedented stepwise pathway was verified at high temperatures in a high-voltage electric field. Experiments and theoretical results revealed an electric field–catalyzed mechanism that shows the presence of a zwitterionic intermediate with one bond formation and variation of concerted and stepwise reactions by the strength of the electric field, thus establishing a previously unidentified approach for mechanistic control by electric field catalysis.

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