Advances in generating controlled few-cycle laser pulses and novel ultrashort XUV/Xray sources, from free electron laser (FEL)-based to attosecond high harmonic generation (HHG)-based, have opened completely new avenues for imaging electronic and nuclear dynamics in molecules, with exciting applications in physics, chemistry and biology. Processes such as ionization and dissociation of simple diatomic molecules can now be monitored in real time, but the access to few-femtosecond or attosecond time scales in the XUV/X-ray domain may also allow one to uncover and control the dynamics of elementary chemical processes such as, e.g., ultrafast charge migration, proton transfer, isomerization or multiple ionization, and to address new key questions about the role of attosecond coherent electron dynamics in chemical reactivity. The success of current experimental efforts in explaining these phenomena, present in many biological processes, is seriously limited due to the difficulty in their interpretation.
The implementation by the Prof. Martin’s group of nearly exact theoretical methods in supercomputers has made it possible to guide experimental research on simple systems. Such theoretical methods lie outside the traditional quantum chemistry realm since, e.g., they must accurately reproduce the time evolution of the coupled electronic and nuclear motions in the electronic and dissociative continua, including electron correlation and non-adiabatic effects. The necessary extension to systems of chemical interest, the current bottleneck in this field, requires extensive and novel theoretical developments along a similar direction.
The aim of XCHEM project is to study the electronic and coupled electronic-nuclear dynamics in complex molecules at the attosecond or few-femtosecond time-scales, developing concepts and accurate theoretical tools to interpret the new generation of time-resolved experiments and to achieve ultrafast electronic control in chemistry.
XChem project aims at developing theoretical approaches and computational tools for time-resolving and controlling (i) molecular autoionization in the presence of ultra-fast vibrational motion, (ii) attosecond charge migration dynamics in molecules upon ionization, (iii) coupled electron-nuclear dynamics during non-adiabatic transitions, with emphasis on the role of electronic coherence created prior or during the transition, and (iv) chemical reactivity.7
The project will be structured under the following main tasks:
- Development of theoretical approaches aimed at studying and controlling autoionization in the few-fs or sub-fs time scales, which is an essential step to elucidate the use of attosecond science in controlling the electronic motion in molecules.
- Developing new approaches and adequate theoretical tools for imaging ultrafast charge migration in molecules, which may be useful to guide experiments performed with XUV/X-ray few-fs and attosecond pulses to achieve control of the electronic motion in large molecules and biomolecules.
- Developing new approaches and corresponding theoretical tools capable of imaging coherent electronic wave packets driven by nuclear motion across the intersections of potential energy surfaces.
- Exploring the possibility of using XUV/X-ray attosecond (few-femtosecond) lasers to provide an efficient way of controlling ultrafast chemical reactions.
XChem project is funded by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) / ERC grant agreement n° 290853