Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Watching motion of electrons in molecules during chemical reactions

Date:
October 25, 2011
Source:
ETH Zürich
Summary:
Scientists have, for the first time, visualized the motion of electrons during a chemical reaction. The new findings in the experiment are of fundamental importance for photochemistry and could also assist the design of more efficient solar cells.

The picture shows the conical intersection and the two possible electronic states of the NO2 molecule before it dissociates.
Credit: Wörner /ETH Zürich

A research group led by ETH Zurich has now, for the first time, visualized the motion of electrons during a chemical reaction. The new findings in the experiment are of fundamental importance for photochemistry and could also assist the design of more efficient solar cells.

In 1999, Ahmed Zewail was awarded the nobel prize in chemistry for his studies of chemical reactions using ultrashort laser pulses. Zewail was able to watch the motion of atoms and thus visualize transition states on the molecular level. Watching the dynamics of single electrons was still considered a dream at that time. Thanks to the latest developments in laser technology and intense research in the field of attosecond spectroscopy (1 attosecond = 10-18 s) the research has developed fast. For the first time, Prof. Hans Jakob Wörner from the Laboratory of Physical Chemistry at ETH Zurich, together with colleagues from Canada and France, was able to record electronic motion during a complete chemical reaction. The experiment is described in the latest issue of Science.

The research team irradiated nitrogen dioxide molecules (NO2) with a very short ultraviolet pulse. Subsequently, the molecule takes up the energy from the pulse which sets the electrons in motion. The electrons start rearranging themselves, which causes the electron cloud to oscillate between two different shapes for a very short time, before the molecule starts to vibrate and eventually decomposes into nitric oxide and an oxygen atom.

Conical intersections

Nitrogen dioxide has model character with respect to understanding electronic motion. In the NO2 molecule, two states of the electrons can have the same energy for a particular geometry -- commonly described as conical intersection. The conical intersection is very important for photochemistry and frequently occurs in natural chemical processes induced by light. The conical intersection works like a dip-switch. For example, if the retina of a human eye is irradiated by light, the electrons start moving, and the molecules of the retina (retinal) change their shape, which finally converts the information of light to electrical information for the human brain. The special aspect about conical intersections is that the motion of electrons is transferred to a motion of the atoms very efficiently.

Snapshot of an electron

In an earlier article, Hans Jakob Wörner has already published how attosecond spectroscopy can be used for watching the motion of electrons. The first weak ultraviolet pulse sets the electrons in motion. The second strong infrared pulse then removes an electron from the molecule, accelerates it and drives it back to the molecule. As a result, an attosecond light pulse is emitted, which carries a snapshot of the electron distribution in the molecule. Wörner illustrates the principle of attosecond spectroscopy: "The experiment can be compared to photographs, which, for example, image a bullet shot through an apple. The bullet would be too fast for the shutter of a camera, resulting in a blurred image. Therefore, the shutter is left open and the picture is illuminated with light flashes, which are faster than the bullet. That's how we get our snap-shot."

From the experiment to solar cells

When the electron returns to the molecule, it releases energy in the form of light. In the experiment, Wörner and his colleagues measured the light of the electrons and were therefore able to deduce detailed information on the electron distribution and its evolution with time. This information reveals details of chemical reaction mechanisms that were not accessible to most of previous experimental techniques. The experiment on NO2 helps understanding fundamental processes in molecules and is an ideal extension of computer simulations of photochemical processes: "What makes our experiment so important is that it verifies theoretical models," says Wörner. The immense interest in photochemical processes is not surprising, as this area of research aims at improving solar cells and making artificial photosynthesis possible.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by ETH Zürich. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. H. J. Worner, J. B. Bertrand, B. Fabre, J. Higuet, H. Ruf, A. Dubrouil, S. Patchkovskii, M. Spanner, Y. Mairesse, V. Blanchet, E. Mevel, E. Constant, P. B. Corkum, D. M. Villeneuve. Conical Intersection Dynamics in NO2 Probed by Homodyne High-Harmonic Spectroscopy. Science, 2011; 334 (6053): 208 DOI: 10.1126/science.1208664

Cite This Page:

ETH Zürich. "Watching motion of electrons in molecules during chemical reactions." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111014080023.htm>.
ETH Zürich. (2011, October 25). Watching motion of electrons in molecules during chemical reactions. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111014080023.htm
ETH Zürich. "Watching motion of electrons in molecules during chemical reactions." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111014080023.htm (accessed July 27, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Europe's Highest Train Turns 80 in French Pyrenees

Europe's Highest Train Turns 80 in French Pyrenees

AFP (July 25, 2014) — Europe's highest train, the little train of Artouste in the French Pyrenees, celebrates its 80th birthday. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans

TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans

AP (July 24, 2014) — TSA administrator, John Pistole's took part in the Aspen Security Forum 2014, where he answered questions on lifting of the ban on flights into Israel's Tel Aviv airport and whether politics played a role in lifting the ban. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers

Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers

AP (July 24, 2014) — Mobile phone companies and communities across the country are going to new lengths to disguise those unsightly cellphone towers. From a church bell tower to a flagpole, even a pencil, some towers are trying to make a point. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Algonquin Power Goes Activist on Its Target Gas Natural

Algonquin Power Goes Activist on Its Target Gas Natural

TheStreet (July 23, 2014) — When The Deal's Amanda Levin exclusively reported that Gas Natural had been talking to potential suitors, the Ohio company responded with a flat denial, claiming its board had not talked to anyone about a possible sale. Lo and behold, Canadian utility Algonquin Power and Utilities not only had approached the company, but it did it three times. Its last offer was for $13 per share as Gas Natural's was trading at a 60-day moving average of about $12.50 per share. Now Algonquin, which has a 4.9% stake in Gas Natural, has taken its case to shareholders, calling on them to back its proposals or, possibly, a change in the target's board. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins