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Vacuum-Field Catalysis: Accelerated Reactions by Vibrational Ultra Strong Coupling

revised on 18.09.2019 and posted on 23.09.2019 by Hidefumi Hiura, Atef Shalabney, Jino George

In conventional catalysis, the reactants interact with specific sites of the catalyst in such a way that the reaction barrier is lowered by changing the reaction path, causing the reaction rate to be accelerated. Here we take a radically different
approach to catalysis by ultra-strongly coupling the vibrations of the reactants to the infrared vacuum electromagnetic field. To demonstrate the possibility of such
vacuum-field catalysis (or cavity catalysis), we have studied hydrolysis reactions under the vibrational ultra strong coupling (V-USC) of the OH stretching mode of water to a Fabry-Pérot microfluidic cavity mode. This results in a giant Rabi splitting energy (92 meV), indicating the system is in the V-USC regime. We have found that V-USC water enhances the hydrolysis reaction rate of cyanate ions by
102-fold and that of ammonia borane by 104-fold. This catalytic ability is found to depend upon the coupling ratio of the vibrational light-matter interaction. Given the vital importance of water for life and human activities, we expect that our finding not only offers an unconventional way of controlling chemical reactions by vacuum-field catalysis but also brings a fresh perspective to science and technology.


Email Address of Submitting Author


NEC Corporation



ORCID For Submitting Author


Declaration of Conflict of Interest

The authors declare competing financial interest: Hidefumi Hiura is employed and funded by NEC Corporation, whereas the other co-authors, Atef Shalabney and Jino George have no competing financial interest.

Version Notes

This set of the manuscript is version 4.