PerspectiveCHEMICAL PHYSICS

Tracking both ultrafast electrons and nuclei

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Science  22 May 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6493, pp. 820-821
DOI: 10.1126/science.abb9937

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Summary

Excitation of polyatomic molecules with visible or ultraviolet (UV) light to a higher-energy electronic state results in a complex competition between radiative and radiationless electronic decay processes and photochemical reactions. Although the time evolution of the population probability of excited electronic states has been extensively explored with time-resolved laser spectroscopy in recent decades, the accompanying nuclear motion could so far not be resolved at the fastest (femtosecond) time scales. On page 885 of this issue, Yang et al. (1) report the simultaneous experimental detection of the excited-state decay and the associated deformation of the nuclear frame with subpicosecond time resolution and subnanometer structural resolution for the example of the pyridine molecule.

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