Polyatomic molecules under intense femtosecond laser irradiation

Arkaprabha Konar, Yinan Shu, Vadim V. Lozovoy, James E. Jackson, Benjamin G. Levine, Marcos Dantus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Interaction of intense laser pulses with atoms and molecules is at the forefront of atomic, molecular, and optical physics. It is the gateway to powerful new tools that include above threshold ionization, high harmonic generation, electron diffraction, molecular tomography, and attosecond pulse generation. Intense laser pulses are ideal for probing and manipulating chemical bonding. Though the behavior of atoms in strong fields has been well studied, molecules under intense fields are not as well understood and current models have failed in certain important aspects. Molecules, as opposed to atoms, present confounding possibilities of nuclear and electronic motion upon excitation. The dynamics and fragmentation patterns in response to the laser field are structure sensitive; therefore, a molecule cannot simply be treated as a " bag of atoms" during field induced ionization. In this article we present a set of experiments and theoretical calculations exploring the behavior of a large collection of aryl alkyl ketones when irradiated with intense femtosecond pulses. Specifically, we consider to what extent molecules retain their molecular identity and properties under strong laser fields. Using time-of-flight mass spectrometry in conjunction with pump-probe techniques we study the dynamical behavior of these molecules, monitoring ion yield modulation caused by intramolecular motions post ionization. The set of molecules studied is further divided into smaller sets, sorted by type and position of functional groups. The pump-probe time-delay scans show that among positional isomers the variations in relative energies, which amount to only a few hundred millielectronvolts, influence the dynamical behavior of the molecules despite their having experienced such high fields (V/A˚). High level ab initio quantum chemical calculations were performed to predict molecular dynamics along with single and multiphoton resonances in the neutral and ionic states. We propose the following model of strong-field ionization and subsequent fragmentation for polyatomic molecules: Single electron ionization occurs on a suboptical cycle time scale, and the electron carries away essentially all of the energy, leaving behind little internal energy in the cation. Subsequent fragmentation of the cation takes place as a result of further photon absorption modulated by one- and two-photon resonances, which provide sufficient energy to overcome the dissociation energy. The proposed hypothesis implies the loss of a photoelectron at a rate that is faster than intramolecular vibrational relaxation and is consistent with the observation of nonergodic photofragmentation of polyatomic molecules as well as experimental results from many other research groups on different molecules and with different pulse durations and wavelengths. (Figure Presented).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11433-11450
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry A
Issue number49
StatePublished - Dec 11 2014

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© 2014 American Chemical Society.


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