Direct Imaging of Transient Molecular Structures with Ultrafast Diffraction
Ultrafast electron diffraction (UED) has been developed to study transient structures in complex chemical reactions initiated with femtosecond laser pulses. This direct imaging of reactions was achieved using our third-generation apparatus equipped with an electron pulse (1.07 ± 0.27 picoseconds) source, a charge-coupled device camera, and a mass spectrometer. Two prototypical gas-phase reactions were studied: the nonconcerted elimination reaction of a haloethane, wherein the structure of the intermediate was determined, and the ring opening of a cyclic hydrocarbon containing no heavy atoms. These results demonstrate the vastly improved sensitivity, resolution, and versatility of UED for studying ultrafast structural dynamics in complex molecular systems.