Table of Contents
Laser Chemistry
Volume 11, Issue 3-4, Pages 151-156

Vector Correlations in Molecular Photofragmentations

Institut für Physikalische und Theoretische Chemie, Universität Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Copyright © 1991 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Photofragmentation spectroscopy—the study of “half collisions” with polarized light of subdoppler line width—opens a window to look into the structure of molecules. The energy partitioning among the particular degrees of freedom of the products of the fragmentation reaction is described by the scalar properties, the direction and magnitude of a particular type of motion is described by the vector properties. The measurement of the scalar and vector properties allows a pictorial view of the intermediate state. The forces which make the fragments fly apart or rotate and vibrate can be “seen” from the line shapes. Information on the unstable intermediate state is gained from the stable fragments long after the dissociation of the parent molecule. In particular, information on the “lifetime” of the intermediate on a femtosecond time scale can be obtained.

A number of molecules, mainly three and four atomic, have been studied by this technique. Hydrogen peroxide has shown up as a textbook example. A complete analysis was possible including not only correlation of different types of fragment motion but also a correlation of the two coincident particles formed from the same parent molecule. The experimental results are in full agreement with recent calculations of the dynamics of the fragmentation on newly obtained potential energy surfaces. Hydrogen peroxide shows a strong dependence of its potential energy on the dihedral angle in the two electronic states amenable to laser excitation. This experiment further demonstrates that an analysis is also possible if two states are excited simultaneously.

Another good example is the fragmentation of hydrazoic acid for which also coincident pair correlation has been treated. Here again the results agree excellently with a qualitative picture which can be drawn from recently calculated ab initio potential energy surfaces. The HN3 example is much more complicated than the former one due to its higher structured upper potential energy surface. Strong rotational excitation is observed in the N2 fragment leaving the NH fragment rotationally cold.

The treatment of vector correlations in molecular photofragmentation is a powerful tool for the study of the dynamics of molecular dissociation reactions.