Direct observation of a photochemical activation energy: a case study of acetone photodissociation

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Abstract

The ability to observe and quantify the conversion of electronic potential energy to vibrational kinetic energy in a molecule after photoexcitation is essential to understand and control the outcome of photoinduced molecular fragmentation. We exploit the high selectivity of photoelectron–photoion coincidence detection to distinguish different relaxation channels and observe the fragmentation behavior of each channel. We demonstrate the concept by investigating the fragmentation of gas-phase acetone molecules initiated by three-photon excitation to high lying Rydberg states between 9.0 and 9.5 eV above the ground state. By applying variations of the photon energy, pulse duration (100–200 fs) and pulse energy, we are able to fully characterize the fragmentation process. Rydberg states between 5s and 8s are populated, which undergo ultrafast internal conversion to lower states. The corresponding non-adiabatic dynamics in the neutral molecule cause the conversion of electronic to vibrational energy, leading to fragmentation. Our scheme allows us to directly measure the activation energy for fragmentation of acetone to an acetyl ion and a methyl radical, which we determine to be (0.79 ± 0.04) eV. Longer laser pulses result in an increased fragment-to-parent ratio, representing a higher probability for relaxation because the relaxation time constants are comparable to the pulse duration. Upon excitation to Rydberg states at 9.5 eV we surprisingly observe reduced fragmentation, although ∼2 eV are coupled into vibrational energy, indicating that different relaxation pathways become active, which results in a change of the redistribution of vibrational energy within the molecule. Fragmentation due to subsequent excitation of the cation is found to play a minor role.
Original languageEnglish
Article number125102
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Physics / B
Volume50
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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  • Advanced Materials Science

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