Recent understanding of light-matter strong coupling brought a new niche in molecular-level control of chemical reactions. Vibrational strong coupling is unique in this category that overcomes the issue associated with coherent chemistry. Here, a vibrational transition is coupled to a standing wave of electromagnetic field, result in strong interaction, generating vibro-polaritonic states. This process reshuffles the entire energy-reaction coordinate. The chemical reaction rate can be boosted, stirred, or decelerated with this unconventional tool. Here, we used the idea of cooperative vibrational strong coupling of solute and solvent molecules to enhance the chemical reaction rate. This process is called cavity catalysis. Different derivatives of p-nitrophenyl benzoate (solute) and isopropyl acetate (solvent) are cooperatively coupled to an infrared Fabry-Perot cavity. The apparent reaction rates are increased by more than six times at the ON resonance condition, and the rate enhancement follows the lineshape of the vibrational envelope. Very interestingly, strong coupled system doesn't follow a linear free-energy relationship. The nonlinear rate enhancement can be due to the reshuffling of energy distribution between the substituents and the reaction center. Thermodynamic parameters suggest an entropy-driven process for the coupled molecules. The free energy of activation decreased by 2-5 kJ/mol, suggesting a clear role of vibrational strong coupling in catalyzing the reaction. Here, the enthalpy of the system compensates for the entropy by preserving the isokinetic relationship. These findings will help further understanding of chemical reaction control in polariton chemistry.
Cavity Catalysis: Modifying Linear Free-energy Relationship under Cooperative Vibrational Strong Coupling