A quantum molecular movie: polyad predissociation dynamics in the VUV excited 3pσ2Σu state of NO2
The optical formation of coherent superposition states, a wavepacket, can allow the study of zeroth-order states, the evolution of which exhibit structural and electronic changes as a function of time: this leads to the notion of a molecular movie. Intramolecular vibrational energy redistribution, due to anharmonic coupling between modes, is the molecular movie considered here. There is no guarantee, however, that the formed superposition will behave semi-classically (e.g. Gaussian wavepacket dynamics) or even as an intuitively useful zeroth-order state. Here we present time-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy (TRPES) studies of an electronically excited triatomic molecule wherein the vibrational dynamics must be treated quantum mechanically and the simple picture of population flow between coupled normal modes fails. Specifically, we report on vibronic wavepacket dynamics in the zeroth-order 3pσ2Σu Rydberg state of NO2. This wavepacket exemplifies two general features of excited state dynamics in polyatomic molecules: anharmonic multimodal vibrational coupling (forming polyads); nonadiabatic coupling between nuclear and electronic coordinates, leading to predissociation. The latter suggests that the polyad vibrational states in the zeroth-order 3p Rydberg manifold are quasi-bound and best understood to be scattering resonances. We observed a rapid dephasing of an initially prepared ‘bright’ valence state into the relatively long-lived 3p Rydberg state whose multimodal vibrational dynamics and decay we monitor as a function of time. Our quantum simulations, based on an effective spectroscopic Hamiltonian, describe the essential features of the multimodal Fermi resonance-driven vibrational dynamics in the 3p state. We also present evidence of polyad-specificity in the state-dependent predissociation rates, leading to free atomic and molecular fragments. We emphasize that a quantum molecular movie is required to visualize wavepacket dynamics in the 3pσ2Σu Rydberg state of NO2.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Time resolved imaging of photo-induced dynamics