Universal crossed beam imaging studies of polyatomic reaction dynamics
The marriage between high level quantum calculations and experimental advances in laser technology, quantum state control, and detection techniques have opened the door to the study of molecular collision dynamics at a new level of detail. However, one current challenge lies in adapting these powerful strategies to address questions beyond the scope of the small ground state systems that have largely been the focus of reaction dynamics investigations to-date. For molecules with intermediate or large size (more than 6 atoms), lack of spectroscopic information and spectral congestion limit quantum state preparation, control and detection for experiment, and the large number of degrees of freedom of the system makes accurate quantum dynamics calculations prohibitively expensive. Nevertheless, studies of the chemical dynamics of such systems can reveal novel aspects of reactivity not anticipated based upon the behavior of smaller model systems. This Perspective will highlight applications of soft vacuum ultraviolet photoionization at 157 nm as a universal probe in combination with crossed beams and DC slice velocity map ion imaging to study bimolecular reaction dynamics of molecules of intermediate or large size, illuminated with support of high-level ab initio calculations. Here, we report on the chemical dynamics of atomic oxygen or chlorine reactions with organic compounds: propanol isomers, alkylamines (N(CH3)3 and NH(CH3)2), and isobutene ((CH3)2CCH2) studied using this approach. The polyatomic radical products from the hydrogen abstraction process have been detected by 157 nm photoionization and their slice ion images embody translational energy and angular information that directly reflect the underlying collision dynamics. Various reaction mechanisms (such as direct abstraction and addition–elimination) along with the involvement of roaming dynamics and novel intersystem crossing pathways are presented. These demonstrate the power of this technique to reveal fundamentally new aspects of reaction dynamics that arise in larger reaction systems.