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Title: Ultrafast Structural Dynamics in Combustion Relevant Model Systems

The research project explored the time resolved structural dynamics of important model reaction system using an array of novel methods that were developed specifically for this purpose. They include time resolved electron diffraction, time resolved relativistic electron diffraction, and time resolved Rydberg fingerprint spectroscopy. Toward the end of the funding period, we also developed time-resolved x-ray diffraction, which uses ultrafast x-ray pulses at LCLS. Those experiments are just now blossoming, as the funding period expired. In the following, the time resolved Rydberg Fingerprint Spectroscopy is discussed in some detail, as it has been a very productive method. The binding energy of an electron in a Rydberg state, that is, the energy difference between the Rydberg level and the ground state of the molecular ion, has been found to be a uniquely powerful tool to characterize the molecular structure. To rationalize the structure sensitivity we invoke a picture from electron diffraction: when it passes the molecular ion core, the Rydberg electron experiences a phase shift compared to an electron in a hydrogen atom. This phase shift requires an adjustment of the binding energy of the electron, which is measurable. As in electron diffraction, the phase shift depends on the molecular, geometricalmore » structure, so that a measurement of the electron binding energy can be interpreted as a measurement of the molecule’s structure. Building on this insight, we have developed a structurally sensitive spectroscopy: the molecule is first elevated to the Rydberg state, and the binding energy is then measured using photoelectron spectroscopy. The molecule’s structure is read out as the binding energy spectrum. Since the photoionization can be done with ultrafast laser pulses, the technique is inherently capable of a time resolution in the femtosecond regime. For the purpose of identifying the structures of molecules during chemical reactions, and for the analysis of molecular species in the hot environments of combustion processes, there are several features that make the Rydberg ionization spectroscopy uniquely useful. First, the Rydberg electron’s orbit is quite large and covers the entire molecule for most molecular structures of combustion interest. Secondly, the ionization does not change vibrational quantum numbers, so that even complicated and large molecules can be observed with fairly well resolved spectra. In fact, the spectroscopy is blind to vibrational excitation of the molecule. This has the interesting consequence for the study of chemical dynamics, where the molecules are invariably very energetic, that the molecular structures are observed unobstructed by the vibrational congestion that dominates other spectroscopies. This implies also that, as a tool to probe the time-dependent structural dynamics of chemically interesting molecules, Rydberg spectroscopy may well be better suited than electron or x-ray diffraction. With recent progress in calculating Rydberg binding energy spectra, we are approaching the point where the method can be evolved into a structure determination method. To implement the Rydberg ionization spectroscopy we use a molecular beam based, time-resolved pump-probe multi-photon ionization/photoelectron scheme in which a first laser pulse excites the molecule to a Rydberg state, and a probe pulse ionizes the molecule. A time-of-flight detector measures the kinetic energy spectrum of the photoelectrons. The photoelectron spectrum directly provides the binding energy of the electron, and thereby reveals the molecule’s time-dependent structural fingerprint. Only the duration of the laser pulses limits the time resolution. With a new laser system, we have now reached time resolutions better than 100 fs, although very deep UV wavelengths (down to 190 nm) have slightly longer instrument functions. The structural dynamics of molecules in Rydberg-excited states is obtained by delaying the probe ionization photon from the pump photon; the structural dynamics of molecules in their ground state or excited valence states is measured by inducing the dynamics using a near UV laser pulse, and employing a multi-photon ionization scheme via the Rydberg states as a probe process. Thus, the technique is capable of measuring the reaction dynamics in any electronic state of neutral molecules.« less
  1. Brown University
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Resource Type:
Technical Report
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Sponsoring Org:
USDOE; USDOE Office of Science (SC), Basic Energy Sciences (BES) (SC-22)
Country of Publication:
United States
99 GENERAL AND MISCELLANEOUS Combustion, chemical dynamics