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Symmetry breaking by quantum coherence in single electron attachment

Krishnakumar, E., Prabhudesai, V.S., Mason, Nigel (2018) Symmetry breaking by quantum coherence in single electron attachment. Nature Physics, 14 (2). pp. 149-153. ISSN 1745-2473. (doi:10.1038/nphys4289) (KAR id:74638)

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Quantum coherence-induced effects in atomic and molecular systems are the basis of several proposals for laser-based control of chemical reactions. So far, these rely on coherent photon beams inducing coherent reaction pathways that may interfere with one another, to achieve the desired outcome. This concept has been successfully exploited for removing the inversion symmetry in the dissociation of homonuclear diatomic molecules, but it remains to be seen if such quantum coherent effects can also be generated by the interaction of incoherent electrons with such molecules. Here we show that resonant electron attachment to H 2 and the subsequent dissociation into H (n = 2) + H - is asymmetric about the inter-nuclear axis, whereas the asymmetry in D 2 is far less pronounced. We explain this observation as due to attachment of a single electron resulting in a coherent superposition of two resonances of opposite parity. In addition to exemplifying a new quantum coherent process, our observation of coherent quantum dynamics involves the active participation of all three electrons and two nuclei, which could provide new tools for studying electron correlations as a means to control chemical processes, and demonstrates the role of coherent effects in electron-induced chemistry.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1038/nphys4289
Uncontrolled keywords: Dissociation, Electrons, Molecules, Process control, Coherent superpositions, Control of chemical reactions, Electron attachment, Homonuclear diatomic molecules, Inversion symmetry, Molecular systems, Quantum coherent effects, Reaction pathways, Quantum theory
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Natural Sciences > School of Physical Sciences
Depositing User: Nigel Mason
Date Deposited: 28 Jun 2019 10:15 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 14:05 UTC
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