Research Article

Orientation-dependent stereo Wigner time delay and electron localization in a small molecule

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Science  22 Jun 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6395, pp. 1326-1330
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao4731

Time and place of electron exit

Until about a decade ago, laser-induced ionization was considered instantaneous. Since then, applications of attosecond laser pulses have shown multiple subtle and complex factors that influence the precise timing of electron ejection from atoms and surfaces. Vos et al. measured the corresponding attosecond dynamics of dissociative photoionization in a diatomic molecule, carbon monoxide. By imaging the charged fragments, the timing could be correlated with the specific spatial portion of the molecule from which the electron wave packet emerged.

Science, this issue p. 1326


Attosecond metrology of atoms has accessed the time scale of the most fundamental processes in quantum mechanics. Transferring the time-resolved photoelectric effect from atoms to molecules considerably increases experimental and theoretical challenges. Here we show that orientation- and energy-resolved measurements characterize the molecular stereo Wigner time delay. This observable provides direct information on the localization of the excited electron wave packet within the molecular potential. Furthermore, we demonstrate that photoelectrons resulting from the dissociative ionization process of the CO molecule are preferentially emitted from the carbon end for dissociative 2Σ states and from the center and oxygen end for the 2Π states of the molecular ion. Supported by comprehensive theoretical calculations, this work constitutes a complete spatially and temporally resolved reconstruction of the molecular photoelectric effect.

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