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How Nuclear Motion Affects Coherent Electron Dynamics in Molecules

Knowledge about the electron dynamics in molecules is essential for our understanding of chemical and biological processes. Because of their light mass, electrons are expected to move on the attosecond (1 as = 10− 18 s) timescale. The first synthesis of attosecond pulses in 2001 has opened up the possibility of probing electronic motion on its intrinsic timescale. Excitation or ionisation of a molecule with such a short pulse leads to the coherent population of several electronic states, called an electronic wavepacket. The interference between electronic states in such a superposition, alternating between constructive and destructive, leads to oscillating motion of the electron cloud. This purely quantum process relies on the coherence of the electronic wavepacket. A fundamental challenge is to understand to what extent the electronic wavepacket retains its coherence, i.e., how long the oscillations in the electron cloud survive, in the presence of interactions with the nuclei of the molecule. To address this question, we have developed semi-classical and quantum mechanical methods to simulate the dynamics upon ionisation of polyatomic molecules. The chapter contains a review of the theoretical methods we have developed and some applications illustrating new important physical insights about the predicted decoherence process.

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31 Aug 2018
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