Probing the location of the unpaired electron in spin–orbit changing collisions of NO with Ar†
Understanding the molecular forces that drive a reaction or scattering process lies at the heart of molecular dynamics. Here, we present a combined experimental and theoretical study of the spin–orbit changing scattering dynamics of oriented NO molecules with Ar atoms. Using our crossed molecular beam apparatus, we have recorded velocity-map ion images and extracted differential and integral cross sections of the scattering process in the side-on geometry. We observe an overall preference for collisions close to the N atom in the spin–orbit changing manifold, which is a direct consequence of the location of the unpaired electron on the potential energy surface. In addition, a prominent forward scattered feature is observed for intermediate, even rotational transitions when the atom approaches the molecule from the O-end. The appearance of this peak originates from an attractive well on the A′ potential energy surface, which efficiently directs high impact parameter trajectories towards the region of high unpaired electron density near the N-end of the molecule. The ability to orient molecules prior to collision, both experimentally and theoretically, allows us to sample different regions of the potential energy surface(s) and unveil the associated collision pathways.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 2020 PCCP HOT Articles