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Published June 2001 | public
Journal Article

Freezing Atoms in Motion: Principles of Femtochemistry and Demonstration by Laser Stroboscopy


The motion of atoms in molecules and in the course of reactions occurs on infinitesimal length and time scales, down to the angstrom (0.1 nm or 10^(-8) cm) length and femtosecond (10^(-15) s) time scales. To observe the behavior of atoms in motion, which is fundamental to chemical and biological transformations of molecular structures, femtosecond "stop-motion photography" with lasers is the methodology employed. This contribution highlights the basic concepts involved in the methodology and in the development of the field of femtochemistry. The concepts are described with the aid of a laser demonstration designed at Caltech and used elsewhere as an exhibit.

Additional Information

© 2001 American Chemical Society. We thank the National Science Foundation for the support of this educational research. We wish also to thank the Nobel Museum Project (Stockholm) for triggering our interest in this effort, and Carsten Kötting and Dongping Zhong for help with three of the figures.

Additional details

August 19, 2023
October 20, 2023