The Belousov-Zhabotinskii Reaction: A Computer Simulated Study Of Bromate Oscillators And Autocatalysis

Victor Thane Norton III

The Belousov-Zhabotinski (BZ) reaction, discovered by B. P. Belousov in 1951, is an organo-halide oscillatory chemical system. Using an open system, such as a continuous-flow stirred tank reactor, the reaction maintains a series of equivalent states from cycle to cycle; however when run in a closed system, such as a petrie dish, the reaction forms a variety of different cycling patterns. These unusual characterisitics make the system interesting to model with a computer simulation so as to observe the exact state of the reaction at any given point, allowing for the precise observation of the naturally occurring spatiotemporal and temporal patterns. One method for accomplishing this involves the use of a cellular automaton machine, using discrete or indiscrete systems, to observe the series of interconnnected chemical reactions. The discrete systems used had three or four possible states, each corresponding to a compound or a group of compounds, while the indiscrete systems had an infinite continuum, up to the limits of the computer, of possible states corresponding to concentrations in an area. This was accomplished using THINK Pascal for the Macintosh, v3.0.

Though a conclusive model of the reaction was not achieved, much insight was gathered towards this end. The technique that showed the most promise required the movement of a two-dimensional system into three dimensions. This system was not, however, exhaustively studied and could be a proper model merely waiting for the proper conditions to evoke conclusive results.