Dynamical Steering and Electronic Excitation in NO Scattering from a Gold Surface

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Science  06 Nov 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5954, pp. 829-832
DOI: 10.1126/science.1179240

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Nonadiabatic coupling of nuclear motion to electronic excitations at metal surfaces is believed to influence a host of important chemical processes and has generated a great deal of experimental and theoretical interest. We applied a recently developed theoretical framework to examine the nature and importance of nonadiabatic behavior in a system that has been extensively studied experimentally: the scattering of vibrationally excited nitric oxide molecules from a Au(111) surface. We conclude that the nonadiabatic transition rate depends strongly on both the N-O internuclear separation and the molecular orientation and, furthermore, that molecule-surface forces can steer the molecule into strong-coupling configurations. This mechanism elucidates key features of the experiments and provides several testable predictions regarding the dependence of vibrational energy transfer on the initial vibrational energy, molecular orientation, and incident angle.

  • * These authors contributed equally to this work.

  • Present address: Department of Chemistry, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208, USA.

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