Strong light–matter interactions: a new direction within chemistry
It is possible to modify the chemical and physical properties of molecules, not only through chemical modifications but also by coupling molecules strongly to light. More intriguingly, strong coupling between molecules and light is possible even without the presence of a photon. The phenomenon that makes this possible is called vacuum fluctuations, which is the finite zero point energy of the quantized electromagnetic field inside an optical cavity. The light–matter coupling, which can be as large as 1 eV (100 kJ mol−1), leads to the formation of new hybrid states, called polaritons. The formed hybrid states can be viewed as a linear combination of light (vacuum field) and matter (molecules), thus completely changing the energy landscape of the system. Using vacuum fluctuations, strong light–matter interactions have for instance been used to change chemical reactivity, charge conductivity, excited state relaxation pathways and rates of chemical reactions of organic molecules. In this review a brief history of the field is given, followed by a theoretical framework, methods of analysis, and a review of accomplishments. Finally, a personal reflection on the future perspectives and applications within this field is given.