Specifically, we discovered a new way for obtaining the structure of the transition state between reactants and products when the reaction is in a complex solvent. All of the previous methods had obtained this surface by optimization (using variational transition state theory) or through successive approximations (using perturbation theory).The key is a mathematical tool, called the Lagrangian descriptor, that had been developed earlier by Wiggins and his colleagues in the area of fluid mechanics.We were able to use the Lagrangian descriptor to obtain the transition state geometry directly without either optimizing the rate or employing perturbation theory. And this means that we now have a new tool for obtaining reaction rates in nonequilibrium systems.
As with most articles in PRL, it was a tortuous path through the reviewing process. We were pleased that nearly all of the reviewers (and we had 6 in the end!) saw the work as novel and potentially game-changing. The full reference of the article is: G. T. Craven and R. Hernandez, "Lagrangian descriptors of thermalized transition states on time-varying energy surfaces," Phys. Rev. Lett. 115, 148301 (2015). (doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.115.148301) I'm happy to acknowledge the support from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR).