Studying the Dynamics of Photochemical Reactions via Ultrafast Time-Resolved Infrared Spectroscopy of the Local Solvent

Conventional ultrafast spectroscopic studies on the dynamics of chemical reactions in solution directly probe the solute undergoing the reaction. We provide an alternative method for probing reaction dynamics via monitoring of the surrounding solvent. When the reaction exchanges the energy (in form of heat) with the solvent, the absorption cross sections of the solvent’s infrared bands are sensitive to the heat transfer, allowing spectral tracking of the reaction dynamics. This spectroscopic technique was demonstrated to be able to distinguish the differing photoisomerization dynamics of the trans and cis isomers of stilbene in acetonitrile solution. We highlight the potential of this spectroscopic approach for studying the dynamics of chemical reactions or other heat transfer processes when probing the solvent is more experimentally feasible than probing the solute directly.