The mutual neutralization of hydronium and hydroxide

Science. 2024 Jan 19;383(6680):285-289. doi: 10.1126/science.adk1950. Epub 2024 Jan 18.


Mutual neutralization of hydronium (H3O+) and hydroxide (OH-) ions is a very fundamental chemical reaction. Yet, there is only limited experimental evidence about the underlying reaction mechanisms. Here, we report three-dimensional imaging of coincident neutral products of mutual-neutralization reactions at low collision energies of cold and isolated ions in the cryogenic double electrostatic ion-beam storage ring (DESIREE). We identified predominant H2O + OH + H and 2OH + H2 product channels and attributed them to an electron-transfer mechanism, whereas a minor contribution of H2O + H2O with high internal excitation was attributed to proton transfer. The reported mechanism-resolved internal product excitation, as well as collision-energy and initial ion-temperature dependence, provide a benchmark for modeling charge-transfer mechanisms.