Molecular movies filmed at conical intersections

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Science  06 Jul 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6397, pp. 30-31
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat6002

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How molecules respond to ultraviolet (UV) light is not only a fundamental issue but has relevance in nature (such as in photosynthesis) and technology (such as with solar cells). Many spectroscopic methods have been developed for the study of photoexcited molecules in the gas phase, free from interactions with any environment, because these conditions allow the intrinsic properties of the molecule to be studied in exquisite detail and to be compared directly with theory. Many spectroscopic methods rely on measuring observables from which it is possible to infer the positions of the individual atoms of the molecule but do not directly measure molecular structure. On page 64 of this issue, Yang et al. (1) report the use of ultrafast gas-phase electron diffraction (GED) and high-level calculations to probe the movements of individual atoms in the prototypical molecule CF3I after the absorption of UV light.