IP2 ~ Sunday, May 21, 1995 ~ 1:30 PM

An Introduction to Chemical Reaction Network Theory

Chemists and chemical engineers are confronted with a bewildering variety of chemical reaction networks. Each new network gives rise to its own system of differential equations involving many dependent variables (species concentrations) and many free parameters (reaction rate constants). When the parameters are known at all, they are usually known only roughly, and so, at least initially, the questions that are most apt are largely qualitative in nature. Without benefit of an overarching theory, each chemical system that presents itself in applications would require ad hoc study of a fresh (and apparently intractable) system of nonlinear differential equations.

The fact is, however, that passage from a network of chemical reactions to the corresponding equations proceeds in a very precise way. This raises the possibility that qualitative properties of the induced system of differential equations can be tied directly to aspects of reaction network structure.

The aim of chemical reaction network theory is to draw just such connections. The speaker will presume little in the way of background. After discussing how reaction network differential equations come about, he will present recent results of the theory, and places where dynamical systems experts can make important contributions.

Martin Feinberg
Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Rochester