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Analytical Chemistry

Ionization Charge Dynamics Tracked

Physical Chemistry: Scientists follow and control charge migration after ionizing iodoacetylene

by Jyllian Kemsley
October 26, 2015 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 93, ISSUE 42

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Credit: Science
Electron-hole density in iodoacetylene is shown migrating after laser-induced ionization with the molecule oriented perpendicular to the laser polarization field.
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Credit: Science
Electron-hole density in iodoacetylene is shown migrating after laser-induced ionization with the molecule oriented perpendicular to the laser polarization field.

In a step toward steering electrons inside molecules to control chemical reactivity, researchers report following electron-hole migration in iodoacetylene (H–C≡C–I) with 100-attosecond resolution after ionizing the molecule with a laser (Science 2015, DOI: 10.1126/science.aab2160). How the electron hole migrates depends on the orientation of the molecule relative to the direction the laser light is polarized. Led by ETH Zurich’s Hans Jakob Wörner, the researchers used a technique called high harmonic generation in which a laser pulse causes an electron to tunnel out and away from an atom—in this case, primarily the iodine of iodoacetylene. When the electron and hole recombine, the process releases a burst of attosecond-duration X-rays. If the molecule is perpendicular to the laser polarization field when it is ionized, the hole initially localizes on the iodine. The hole then delocalizes over the molecule before localizing on the carbons. If the molecule is parallel to the laser polarization field, the hole localizes mostly on the carbons.

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