Using ultrashort laser pulses an international team at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich has managed to manipulate the positions of atoms in hydrocarbon molecules.
Light can conduct the play of atoms and molecules in the microcosm. Humans manage to interfere with this play. Researchers from the Laboratory of Attosecond Physics (LAP) of the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (MPQ) and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) and from the Department of Chemistry at the LMU have now used light to reconfigure hydrocarbons. Using ultrashort laser pulses they removed an outer hydrogen atom from one side of a hydrocarbon molecule and directed it to the opposite side, where it reattached. The method could be used in the future to synthesize new substances by controlling chemical reactions.
Everything in these experiments happens unbelievably fast – within just a few millionths of a billionth of a second. An ultrashort laser pulse hits an acetylene molecule. The symmetric, linear hydrocarbon molecule with one hydrogen atom on each outer side starts to wobble, and is ionized, causing the molecule to become aligned within the laser field. On an extremely short timescale, a hydrogen atom on one side detaches and migrates to the other side, where it rebinds.
The researchers from the Laboratory of Attosecond Physics at MPQ and LMU, and from the Department of Chemistry at LMU, were able to control the directionality of this reaction. The experimental observations and their underlying mechanisms were elucidated by quantum-mechanical simulations performed in Prof. Regina de Vivie-Riedle’s group. Using laser pulses lasting only a few femtoseconds, the physicists influenced the vibrations of the acetylene molecules in such a way that they could selectively remove a particular hydrogen atom from either the left or right side of the molecule.
The hydrogen atom then spontaneously migrated across the molecule to the other side, resulting in the formation and release of the chemical vinylidene. The researchers have also used the technique to reconfigure allene, a larger molecule belonging to the same group of hydrocarbons as acetylene. In doing so, they demonstrated that their method also worked for hydrocarbons with longer chain lengths.
Motions of electrons and atoms are fundamental to chemical processes in nature. With laser technology, researchers are developing ways to influence these motions. “Our experiments have shown that we are not only able to direct electrons in the microcosm, but also hydrogen atoms, which are about 2000-times heavier”, says Prof. Matthias Kling, the leader of the Ultrafast Nanophotonics group at the LAP. “In both cases it is the wave nature of the controlled particles that is responsible for the underlying mechanism“, as Prof. de Vivie-Riedle explains.
The researchers have thus reconfigured matter with the aid of light in their experiment. “We hope that we will be able to take apart various kinds of substances in the future and put them back together at will”, says Kling. Such a light-driven mode of chemical synthesis could help to fabricate new substances in the future. This prospect is particularly appealing in medicine and the design of new drugs. Thorsten Naeser
Dr. Olivia Meyer-Streng | Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik
New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers
21.04.2017 | California Institute of Technology
Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy
21.04.2017 | Stockholm University
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...
Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.
A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy