Wernet, Ph.: Electronic structure in real time: mapping valence electron rearrangements during chemical reactions. Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics 13 (2011), p. 16941-16954
Open Accesn Version

The interest in following the evolution of the valence electronic structure of atoms and molecules during chemical reactions on a femtosecond time scale is discussed. By explicitly mapping the occupied part of the electronic structure with femtosecond pump–probe schemes one essentially follows the electrons making the bonds while the bonds change. This holds the key to unprecedented insight into chemical bonding in short-lived intermediates and reveals the coupled motion of electrons and nuclei. Examples from the recent literature on small molecules and anionic clusters in the gas phase and on atoms and molecules on surfaces using lab-based femtosecond laser methods are used to demonstrate the case. They highlight how the evolution of the valence electronic structure can be probed with time-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy with ultraviolet (UV) probe photon energies of up to 6 eV. It is shown how new insight can be gained by extending the probing wavelength into the vacuum-ultraviolet (VUV) region to photon energies of 20 eV and more by accessing the whole occupied valence electronic structure with time-resolved VUV photoelectron spectroscopy. Finally, the importance of soft X-ray free-electron lasers with probe photon energies of several hundred eV and femtosecond pulses and in particular the key role of femtosecond time-resolved soft X-ray emission spectroscopy or resonant inelastic X-ray scattering for mapping the electronic structure during chemical reactions is discussed.