Diffractive imaging of a rotational wavepacket in nitrogen molecules with femtosecond megaelectronvolt electron pulses
Document Type Article
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Imaging changes in molecular geometries on their natural femtosecond timescale with sub-Angstro¨m spatial precision is one of the critical challenges in the chemical sciences, as the nuclear geometry changes determine the molecular reactivity. For photoexcited molecules, the nuclear dynamics determine the photoenergy conversion path and efficiency. Here we report a gas-phase electron diffraction experiment using megaelectronvolt (MeV) electrons, where we captured the rotational wavepacket dynamics of nonadiabatically laser-aligned nitrogen molecules. We achieved a combination of 100 fs root-mean-squared temporal resolution and sub-Angstrom (0.76Å) spatial resolution that makes it possible to resolve the position of the nuclei within the molecule. In addition, the diffraction patterns reveal the angular distribution of the molecules, which changes from prolate (aligned) to oblate (anti-aligned) in 300 fs. Our results demonstrate a significant and promising step towards making atomically resolved movies of molecular reactions.