Femtosecond Clocking of the Chemical Bond

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Science  02 Sep 1988:
Vol. 241, Issue 4870, pp. 1200-1202
DOI: 10.1126/science.241.4870.1200


When a chemical bond is broken in a direct dissociation reaction, the process is so rapid that it has generally been considered instantaneous and thus unmeasurable. However, the bond does persist for times on the order of 10-13 seconds after the photon has been absorbed. Femtosecond (10-15 second) laser techniques can be used to directly clock this process, which describes the dynamics of the chemical bond. The time required to break the chemical bond in an elementary reaction has been measured and the characteristic repulsion length for the potential governing fragment separation has been obtained.