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Porter, George, Baron Porter

flash radicals short developed

(1920–2002) British physical chemist: developed flash photolysis for detection of short-lived photochemical entities.

Porter took his first degree in Leeds, and in his final year took a course in radiophysics; in the Second World War, as a naval officer, he worked with radar. In Cambridge from 1945, he worked with (1897–1978) on the detection and study of the short-lived radical intermediates involved in photochemical gas reactions. Porter developed the idea of using a flash technique to produce the radicals, by discharging a large bank of capacitors to produce a short, high-energy flash (the principle of the photographic flash gun) and using this flash (lasting 10 –3 s or less) to break up the gas to form radicals and excited molecules. A second flash, after a brief delay, served to give a spectrum of the contents of the reaction tube, so that the radicals could be detected and their lifetimes calculated. Porter developed these ideas in ingenious ways; by 1975 he could detect molecules with a life of only a picosecond (10 –12 s); he extended the method to liquids; he showed that radicals can be trapped in a supercooled liquid (a glass); and he applied laser beams to photochemical studies. His work did much to develop photo-chemistry, including its application to biochemical problems. In 1966, after 10 years in Sheffield, he became director of the Royal Institution; he shared a Nobel Prize in 1967 with Norrish and M Eigen (1927– ).

Porter, Rodney (Robert) [next] [back] Porter, Dorothy (1905–) - Curator, History of African-American Women

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