Getting Molecular Electrons into Motion

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Science  16 Mar 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6074, pp. 1314-1315
DOI: 10.1126/science.1219486

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The valence electrons of a molecule are responsible for making chemical bonds, and their interactions with one another determine whether processes such as electron transfer between molecular groups in light harvesting occur. Electrons are so light that their motion within molecules is described on time scales of attoseconds (1 as = 10−18 s). The promise of attoscience is to use ultrafast laser pulses to excite processes in atoms and molecules that occur on these time scales and thereby probe electron interactions. So far, attosecond time-resolved experiments have only been accomplished for isolated atoms and very small molecules. On page 1336 of this issue, Boguslavskiy et al. (1) now show that electrons of larger and more complex molecules can also be set into attosecond motion through ionization processes induced with strong electric fields generated by laser pulses.