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Review by Professor Alexander Gorshteyn

Chemistry, just as physics, mathematics, and biology comprise a foundation on which is formed our understanding of the world of which we are a part.

The chemical reactions that are continuously occurring around and inside of us, support a delicate equilibrium in nature that have been in process for ages. Owing to these reactions, live organisms and vegetation live, multiply, and die; a more or less constant climate is retained on the earth; medical treatment progresses; transport facilities function, energy is produced.

This is why chemistry is taught at schools, colleges, and universities throughout the world. It is understood that the teaching of any course should be constructed on the true knowledge gained by mankind in the corresponding fields. Punctilious are the scientific and pedagogical efforts in schools where the young brains so readily and for long, if not forever, absorb practically any information without any criticism for which the students are incapable as yet.

From this point of view, the way chemistry is taught at schools and colleges nowadays, cannot be regarded as satisfactory. This has often been stressed in many discussions conducted on the pages of Chemical Education. Such a situation has arisen not only in America, but in many other countries as well, including Russia, where I happened to have taught general and physical chemistry for 25 years in one of the most prestigious institutes of the country - the St. Petersburg Mining Institute.

It is a fact that the officially recognized theory of chemical structure (taught with various degrees of detail) is a product of quantum chemistry with its ensuing method of molecular orbitals; while the theory of chemical interactions is the transitional state theory or the activated complex theory.

The shortcomings of these theories had been discussed many a time, and there is no need to dwell upon them again. I would only like to emphasize only say that a large number of allowances, suppositions, empirical rules, and principles made it impossible for the teachers to show the students the cause-effect phenomenon of the chemical reaction.

Indeed, how can one see logic in the explanation why a chemical reaction takes place when: on the one hand, you have to say that the reaction is actually the process of breaking old bonds and forming new ones, on the other hand, you have to stress the fact that the activation energy is several times (or even several magnitudes) smaller than the bonding energy in the interacting molecules which have to be broken in order to guarantee an interaction?

Oh, the awful confusion of placing the elements on levels and sub-levels of energy, beginning with the 4th period! The unproved confirmation about the existence of bonding and breaking molecular orbitals! The initial idea of the impossibility to see the activated complex! All this transforms chemistry from a science into a mass of laws that are to be followed without thinking of the WHY? And this happens to be the question whose answer raises mankind high above all other living creatures.

Thus, it is not surprising that in view of the fact that there are no other recognized theories of structure and chemical interaction, we hear authoritative voices calling for the rejection of quantum chemistry and the molecular orbital method and the return to descriptive chemistry, justly supposing that false knowledge is worse than ignorance.

Most likely we would readily agree with this viewpoint had it not been for one extraordinary circumstance: There is a new approach to the questions How is matter constructed? and How do chemical reactions proceed? This new approach is given in the new book by the Gankins in How Chemical Bonds Form and Chemical Reactions Proceed issued by the Institute of Theoretical Chemistry, Shrewsbury, MA, 1998, a review of which is herewith offered to the reader.

A few words about the authors of this book. Since they are Russian by birth, they are hardly known to American specialists as yet.

Victor Yuriyevich Gankin is a Doctor of Technical Sciences, professor, one of the foremost oil-chemists. He is the author of some original technologies for oxo-synthesis, synthesis of isoprene, and a number of other oil-chemical products. Most of his works had been inculcated in the oil industry. The elaboration of these processes was based on the works of theoretical studies concerning such processes. In the beginning of the 1980s V.Y.Gankin worked on the theory of chemical reactions where he discovered some white spots in the theory of molecule structure and chemical bonding. This is why his recent years were devoted to the elaboration of new theories of chemical bonding and chemical reactions.

His son Yuriy Victorovich Gankin got his higher education at the St. Petersburg Institute of Technology in the 1980s. It was then that he took an active part in the elaboration of the theory of chemical bonding and chemical reactions. He got a Ph.D in Analytical Chemistry at Tufts University. In the last five years Y.V.Gankin has specialized in computerized and theoretical chemistry.

Now, back to the book review. This is an unusual book in many ways. It will suffice to just glance at the contents to realize its importance. The first three chapters are devoted to the theory of structure, theory of chemical bonding, and theory of chemical interactions. These three chapters take up almost half of the book. The rest of the book deals with additions with further explanations of the materials offered in the first three chapters, plus the authors' views on important physical phenomena and problems.

The supplement includes the translations of some earlier articles written by the authors, published in Russia, and devoted to various structural problems and physics. In my opinion, such a compilation cannot offer a complete image of the book, and the numerous repetitions do cause irritation especially in those of us who are acquainted with these works, published in the 1980s in Russia.

Most important, however, is the essence of the book that I would like to mention in this part of the review. What is the essence of the new approach to the explanation of matter structure, the nature of chemical banding and chemical interactions?

The commonly accepted theory of matter structure based on the corpuscle-wave dualism of an electron is well known. The idea was formulated by Louis de Broglie in 1923 and was confirmed by diffraction experiments which Davisson and Germer carried out in 1927. Since then nobody ever returned to these experiments and all the scientists' attempts were focussed on the search for the approximation method for solving the Schroedinger equation which has no solution for multi-electronic systems. Besides, the following questions were not considered by the scientists:

1) Why don't all chemical reactions proceed if they are thermodynamically possible?

2) Why do many chemical reactions proceed at room temperature, while, in order to break a chemical bond at molecule thermal excitation, we have to heat it up to several thousand degrees?

3) Why is the activation energy in most of the chemical reactions much smaller than the energies of the chemical bonds that break during the chemical reactions?

The search for the answers to these questions has led the authors to the development of a new theory - The G Theory of Chemical Bonding and Chemical Reactions. The principles of this theory are described in the book under review.

The authors have rejected the corpuscle-wave dualism of the electron on the grounds that the only experimental proof of the presence of wave properties in electrons is the incorrectly interpreted experiments of Davisson and Germer. When elucidating the results of their experiments, Davisson and Germer did not consider the influence of the electromagnetic radiation (which accompanied the electronic stream) on the properties of this stream. The consideration of this influence on the properties of the electronic stream in the experiments of Davisson and Germer, described in the book under review, has shown that the electron stream becomes a wave of electrons, and that the length of this electronic wave is proportional to the value h/mv where h is the Plank constant, m is the mass, and v is the speed.

The authors regard the electron as a common material particle with a mass, a corresponding kinetic energy, and a negative electric charge. Analyzing the forces acting between the electrons and the nucleus, the authors elaborated a system of simple algebraic equations which allowed them to realize: 1) the physical nature of chemical bonding, 2) the optimal number of bonding electrons, 3) the radius of the orbit where the electrons are, 4) the dependence of the bonding energy on the first ionization potentials (FIP) of the interacting atoms, 5) the length, direction, and polarity of the bonds.

The great strength of covalent bonding is explained in the new theory by the fact that much of the heat energy, given to the molecules in the course of thermal agitation, is spent irrationally, i.e., goes not to the increase of the vibrational energy of the nuclei, but to the increase of the energy and entropy of the bonding electrons. The fact that chemical reactions proceed with bond breaking at low temperatures is explained by the authors on the basis of the experimental results received by a large group of scientists who are well represented in chemical literature. According to these works, in the course of chemical transformation, strong covalent bonds can change into weaker donor-acceptor bonds or into very weak Van-der-Waals bonds.

Having studied the regularities of chemical transformations described in literature, the authors have concluded that all the chemical interactions proceed along an analogous mechanism that includes the stages of association, electronic isomerization, and dissociation. As a rule, the limiting stage is that of dissociation. The fact that the activation energy is almost by one order of magnitude smaller than the bonding energy of the interacting atoms - is explained by the electronic isomerization which proceeds in the associate along the following scheme: A'... B:C Û A:B...C'.

The exponential dependence of the reaction rate on the temperature is explained by the formation of chemically active particles (radicals, ions, conences) in initial substances in the course of any chemical interaction. Thus, the authors have categorically declined the transitional state theory (activated complex) proving that in reality the chemical reaction proceeds via the formation of an intermediate compound - associate A... B... C - whose formation is based upon the minimal potential curve, and not via the transitional state at the top of the energetic barrier.

All the theoretical principles are confirmed via grand experiments on:

1. the measurements of the ionization potentials and the energy affinity towards the electron,
2. the studies of atomic and molecular spectra,
3. the defining of bonding energy,
4. finding the rates of various reactions,
5. the research of reactions in molecular beams.

The adequacy of the theories in respect to reality is confirmed by the coincidence of the calculated and experimental data.

Thus, the main theses of the G Theory of Chemical Bonding cannot cause any objections since they are based on principles that do not, in any way, contradict modern science. And a good coincidence of theoretical and experimental data is a good proof of the reality.

This book is not a textbook, for the authors did not mean to produce it as such. Its main object is to get the scientific world acquainted with a new approach to the study of matter structure, chemical bonding, and chemical interactions.

However, I am not convinced that this aim has been accomplished in full, because the small number of copies of How Chemical Bonds Form and Chemical Reactions Proceed cannot satisfy our needs. Nevertheless, the book has, obviously, already stirred quite a bit of interest, and, to begin with, it has already been translated into Russian.

This book can, undoubtedly, serve as a main source for the construction of new textbooks on chemistry for both high schools and colleges. For this we must get together all the interested chemists, do away with all prejudices, and organize discussions about the G Theory of Chemical Bonding and the Theory of Elementary Interactions (TEI) given in the above mentioned book.


Doctor of Technical Sciences,
Professor Alexander Gorshteyn