White Lights, Broken Molecules

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Science  18 Jan 2002:
Vol. 295, Issue 5554, pp. 409
DOI: 10.1126/science.295.5554.409a

Excitation of molecules with ultrashort laser pulses has revealed many insights into chemical dynamics, but some processes are more readily stimulated with continuum, or white light, pulses that span a broader frequency range. Müller et al. fired 80-femtosecond, 800-nanometer-wavelength pulses through a 2-millimeter-thick CaF2 plate into toluene vapor. Increasing the pulse intensity broadened the pulses through self-phase modulation, and these broadened pulses fragmented the toluene molecules. Higher intensity monochromatic pulses left the molecules intact. The authors conclude that the broadened pulses stimulated Raman-active carbon-carbon bonds to such an extent that the backbone framework shattered. — PDS

Phys. Rev. Lett. 88, 023001 (2002).

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