A variety of fundamental processes in nature are connected to the absorption of light. Consider for example visual perception, which allows us to directly interact with our environment, or also the complex phenomenon of photosynthesis, that is the ultimate prerequisite for biological life itself, enabling the production of oxygen in our atmosphere.
Reactions that are triggered by the interaction with photons generally take place on ultrafast time scales, meaning on the scales of molecular vibrations or electron motion, which are on the order of pico-, femto- or even attoseconds (10-12 down to 10-18 s). Our research focuses on the real-time tracking of these processes, which we perform on molecules and molecular complexes in the gas phase, on species that are isolated in superfluid helium nanodroplets, and in the future also on systems in the solid phase (e.g. thin molecular films).
To be able to follow these so called ultrafast processes, we use femtosecond laser pulses in pump-probe experiments, which allow the direct observation of photochemical reactions.
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