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Femtosecond X‑ray Liquidography Visualizes Wavepacket Trajectories in Multidimensional Nuclear Coordinates for a Bimolecular Reaction

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posted on 18.03.2021, 12:05 by Jong Goo Kim, Eun Hyuk Choi, Yunbeom Lee, Hyotcherl Ihee
ConspectusVibrational wavepacket motions on potential energy surfaces are one of the critical factors that determine the reaction dynamics of photoinduced reactions. The motions of vibrational wavepackets are often discussed in the interpretation of observables measured with various time-resolved vibrational or electronic spectroscopies but mostly in terms of the frequencies of wavepacket motions, which are approximated by normal modes, rather than the actual positions of the wavepacket. Although the time-dependent positions (that is, the trajectory) of wavepackets are hypothesized or drawn in imagined or calculated potential energy surfaces, it is not trivial to experimentally determine the trajectory of wavepackets, especially in multidimensional nuclear coordinates for a polyatomic molecule. Recently, we performed a femtosecond X-ray liquidography (solution scattering) experiment on a gold trimer complex (GTC), [Au­(CN)2]3, in water at X-ray free-electron lasers (XFELs) and elucidated the time-dependent positions of vibrational wavepackets from the Franck–Condon region to equilibrium structures on both excited and ground states in the course of the formation of covalent bonds between gold atoms.Bond making is an essential process in chemical reactions, but it is challenging to keep track of detailed atomic movements associated with bond making because of its bimolecular nature that requires slow diffusion of two reaction parties to meet each other. Bond formation in the solution phase has been elusive because the diffusion of the reactants limits the reaction rate of a bimolecular process, making it difficult to initiate and track the bond-making processes with an ultrafast time resolution. In principle, if the bimolecular encounter can be controlled to overcome the limitation caused by diffusion, the bond-making processes can be tracked in a time-resolved manner, providing valuable insight into the bimolecular reaction mechanism. In this regard, GTC offers a good model system for studying the dynamics of bond formation in solution. Au­(I) atoms in GTC exhibit a noncovalent aurophilic interaction, making GTC an aggregate complex without any covalent bond. Upon photoexcitation of GTC, an electron is excited from an antibonding orbital to a bonding orbital, leading to the formation of covalent bonds among Au atoms. Since Au atoms in the ground state of GTC are located in close proximity within the same solvent cage, the formation of Au–Au covalent bonds occurs without its reaction rate being limited by diffusion through the solvent.Femtosecond time-resolved X-ray liquidography (fs-TRXL) data revealed that the ground state has an asymmetric bent structure. From the wavepacket trajectory determined in three-dimensional nuclear coordinates (two internuclear distances and one bond angle), we found that two covalent bonds are formed between three Au atoms of GTC asynchronously. Specifically, one covalent bond is formed first for the shorter Au–Au pair (of the asymmetric and bent ground-state structure) in 35 fs, and subsequently, the other covalent bond is formed for the longer Au–Au pair within 360 fs. The resultant trimer complex has a symmetric and linear geometry, implying the occurrence of bent-to-linear transformation concomitant with the formation of two equivalent covalent bonds, and exhibits vibrations that can be unambiguously assigned to specific normal modes based on the wavepacket trajectory, even without the vibrational frequencies provided by quantum calculation.

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