Researchers have recently used laser beams to control chemical processes, a first in atomic bonding science. This might pave the way to developing further photochemistry techniques. The findings have been published in the journal Physical Review Letters.
In the past, laser beams have been used to break bonds. On the other hand, the reverse proved to be challenging. Fortunately, scientists from Israel’s Hebrew University, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and the University of Kassel in Germany, have now successfully used light to control atomic bonding (coherent control): short pulses of light ‘pulled’ pairs of magnesium atoms to adhere together, forming the dimer, Mg2.
Furthermore, the scientists observed that by manipulating the pulse shape they could trigger the formation of additional molecules, up to a factor of five. This implies that molecular pieces can possibly be cut and glued together to form a certain desired final product using lasers.
The scientists achieved their aim by firing lasers at a small number of atoms only for a millionth of a billionth of a second to ensure that the bond formation was not the result of another process.
“The energy absorbed from the pulse leads to a rearrangement of the atoms’ electrons, resulting in a chemical bond,” said lead author, Christiane Koch, in a statement to Chemistry World. “We hope that these accomplishments will motivate other groups to look again into the coherent control of chemical reactions and thus revive the field,” she added.