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Published November 1980 | Published
Journal Article Open

Laser selective chemistry—is it possible?


One of the main goals of chemists is to understand the "alchemy" that leads to the building and breaking of molecules. There are many different ways of approaching this goal. One of these is photochemistry, the cracking of molecules by adding energy in the form of light to break bonds in the molecules. The resulting bond breakage is in most cases limited by statistical thermodynamic laws. With sufficiently brief and intense laser radiation properly tuned to specific resonances, we hope to bypass the statistical laws and break molecules precisely where we want to break them. Intellectually this is a challenging problem; if we succeed, laser selective chemistry may also have application in various areas of pure and applied chemistry and, perhaps, in medicine. With sufficiently brief and intense radiation, properly tuned to specific resonances, we may be able to fulfill a chemist's dream, to break particular selected bonds in large molecules.

Additional Information

© 1980 American Institute of Physics. I wish to thank many of my colleagues for their critical comments and for communicating their results and ideas: S. Rice R., A. Marcus, M. Berry, R. Bernstein, A. Kaldor, M. El-Sayed. R. Hochstrasser, H. Rubalcava, E. Stechel. E. Heller and W. Miller. This work was supported in part by the National Science Foundation.

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