Single Photon-Induced Symmetry Breaking of H2 Dissociation

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Science  02 Feb 2007:
Vol. 315, Issue 5812, pp. 629-633
DOI: 10.1126/science.1136598

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H2, the smallest and most abundant molecule in the universe, has a perfectly symmetric ground state. What does it take to break this symmetry? We found that the inversion symmetry can be broken by absorption of a linearly polarized photon, which itself has inversion symmetry. In particular, the emission of a photoelectron with subsequent dissociation of the remaining H +2 fragment shows no symmetry with respect to the ionic H+ and neutral H atomic fragments. This lack of symmetry results from the entanglement between symmetric and antisymmetric H +2 states that is caused by autoionization. The mechanisms behind this symmetry breaking are general for all molecules.

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