Long-lasting field-free alignment of large molecules inside helium nanodroplets

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Molecules with their axes sharply confined in space, available through laser-induced alignment methods, are essential for many current experiments, including ultrafast molecular imaging. For these applications the aligning laser field should ideally be turned-off, to avoid undesired perturbations, and the strong alignment should last long enough that reactions and dynamics can be mapped out. Presently, this is only possible for small, linear molecules and for times less than 1 picosecond. Here, we demonstrate strong, field-free alignment of large molecules inside helium nanodroplets, lasting >10 picoseconds. One-dimensional or three-dimensional alignment is created by a slowly switched-on laser pulse, made field-free through rapid pulse truncation, and retained thanks to the impeding effect of the helium environment on molecular rotation. The opportunities field-free aligned molecules open are illustrated by measuring the alignment-dependent strong-field ionization yield of dibromothiophene oligomers. Our technique will enable molecular frame experiments, including ultrafast excited state dynamics, on a variety of large molecules and complexes.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Communications
Volume10
Issue1
Number of pages6
ISSN2041-1723
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2019

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