Uncovering Molecular Relaxation Processes with Nonlinear Spectroscopies in the Deep UV Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • West, Brantley Andrew
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Physics and Astronomy
  • Conical intersections mediate internal conversion dynamics that compete with even the fastest nuclear motions in molecular systems. Traditional kinetic models do not apply in this regime of commensurate electronic and nuclear motion because the surroundings do not maintain equilibrium throughout the relaxation process. This dissertation focuses on uncovering the physics associated with vibronic interactions at conical intersections. Of particular interest are coherent nuclear motions driven by steep excited state potential energy gradients. Technical advances have only recently made these dynamics accessible in many systems including DNA nucleobases and cyclic polyene molecules. Optical analogues of multidimensional NMR spectroscopies have recently yielded transformative insight in relaxation processes ranging from energy transfer in photosynthesis to bond making and breaking in liquids. Prior to the start of this research, such experiments had only been conducted at infrared and visible wavelengths. Applications in the ultraviolet were motivated by studies of numerous biological systems (e.g., DNA, proteins), but had been challenged by technical issues. The work presented in this dissertation combines pulse generation techniques developed in the optical physics community with spectroscopic techniques largely pioneered by physical chemists to implement two-dimensional ultraviolet spectroscopy (2DUV). This technique is applied at the shortest wavelengths and with the best signal-to-noise ratios reported to date. Sub-picosecond excited state deactivation processes provide photo stability to the DNA double helix. Vibrational energy transfer from the solute to surrounding solvent enables relaxation of the highly non-equilibrium ground state produced by fast internal conversion. In this dissertation, nonlinear spectroscopies carried out at cryogenic temperatures are used to uncover the particular nuclear modes in the solvent that primarily accept vibrational energy from the solute. These measurements additionally expose a competition between internal conversion and vibrational energy transfer onto the DNA backbone. Ring-opening reactions in cycloalkenes are one of the most fundamental reactions in organic chemistry. Traditional textbook understandings of these reactions conveniently hide the intricate physics that occurs prior to bond breaking. Sub-100-femtosecond internal conversion processes precede bond breaking in these systems. This dissertation directly monitors these dynamics in a derivative of cyclohexadiene, α-terpinene, and detects coherent wavepacket motions for the first time in solution.
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  • In Copyright
  • Moran, Andrew
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Graduation year
  • 2013

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