Direct Imaging of Transient Molecular Structures with Ultrafast Diffraction

Science  19 Jan 2001:
Vol. 291, Issue 5503, pp. 458-462
DOI: 10.1126/science.291.5503.458

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Ultrafast electron diffraction (UED) has been developed to study transient structures in complex chemical reactions initiated with femtosecond laser pulses. This direct imaging of reactions was achieved using our third-generation apparatus equipped with an electron pulse (1.07 ± 0.27 picoseconds) source, a charge-coupled device camera, and a mass spectrometer. Two prototypical gas-phase reactions were studied: the nonconcerted elimination reaction of a haloethane, wherein the structure of the intermediate was determined, and the ring opening of a cyclic hydrocarbon containing no heavy atoms. These results demonstrate the vastly improved sensitivity, resolution, and versatility of UED for studying ultrafast structural dynamics in complex molecular systems.

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