The Birth of Attochemistry

Mauro Nisoli

The application of attosecond experimental and theoretical tools to chemistry, and in the future to biology, is opening new avenues of research.

figureFront-end of an attosecond beamline: sub-5-fs pulses, characterized by an ultrabroad spectrum, are injected in a high-order harmonic generation chamber. [Maurizio Contran]

The laws of quantum mechanics dictate the relevant timescales of the microscale processes of chemistry. A single molecule, for example, can rotate and vibrate. Using quantum terminology, we can say that molecular rotations and vibrations relate to the generation of a coherent superposition of rotational and vibrational states—with rotations and vibrations evolving on picosecond and femtosecond timescales, respectively, depending on the energy difference between the states in the coherent superposition.

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