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Ultrafast 25-fs relaxation in highly excited states of methyl azide mediated by strong nonadiabatic coupling

TitleUltrafast 25-fs relaxation in highly excited states of methyl azide mediated by strong nonadiabatic coupling
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsPeters, WK, Couch, DE, Mignolet, B, Shi, X, Nguyen, QL, Fortenberry, RC, H. Schlegel, B, Remacle, F, Kapteyn, HC, Murnane, MM, Li, W
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Volume114
Start PageE11072
Issue52
PaginationE11072 - E11081
Date Published2017-12
ISSN0027-8424
Abstract

Highly excited electronic states are challenging to explore experimentally and theoretically-due to the large density of states and the fact that small structural changes lead to large changes in electronic character with associated strong nonadiabatic dynamics. They can play a key role in astrophysical and ionospheric chemistry, as well as the detonation chemistry of high-energy density materials. Here, we implement ultrafast vacuum-UV (VUV)-driven electron-ion coincidence imaging spectroscopy to directly probe the reaction pathways of highly excited states of energetic molecules-in this case, methyl azide. Our data, combined with advanced theoretical simulations, show that photoexcitation of methyl azide by a 10-fs UV pulse at 8 eV drives fast structural changes and strong nonadiabatic coupling that leads to relaxation to other excited states on a surprisingly fast timescale of 25 fs. This ultrafast relaxation differs from dynamics occurring on lower excited states, where the timescale required for the wavepacket to reach a region of strong nonadiabatic coupling is typically much longer. Moreover, our theoretical calculations show that ultrafast relaxation of the wavepacket to a lower excited state occurs along one of the conical intersection seams before reaching the minimum energy conical intersection. These findings are important for understanding the unique strongly coupled non-Born-Oppenheimer molecular dynamics of VUV-excited energetic molecules. Although such observations have been predicted for many years, this study represents one of the few where such strongly coupled non-Born-Oppenheimer molecular dynamics of VUV-excited energetic molecules have been conclusively observed directly, making it possible to identify the ultrafast reaction pathways.

URLhttp://www.pnas.org/content/114/52/E11072
DOI10.1073/pnas.1712566114
Short TitleProc Natl Acad Sci USA

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