Quantum unidirectional rotation directly imaged with molecules

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Science Advances  03 Jul 2015:
Vol. 1, no. 6, e1400185
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1400185


A gas-phase molecular ensemble coherently excited to have an oriented rotational angular momentum has recently emerged as an appropriate microscopic system to illustrate quantum mechanical behavior directly linked to classical rotational motion, which has a definite direction. To realize an intuitive visualization of such a unidirectional molecular rotation, we report high-resolution direct imaging of direction-controlled rotational wave packets in nitrogen molecules. The rotational direction was regulated by a pair of time-delayed, polarization-skewed laser pulses, introducing the dynamic chirality to the system. The subsequent spatiotemporal propagation was tracked by a newly developed Coulomb explosion imaging setup. From the observed molecular movie, time-dependent detailed nodal structures, instantaneous alignment, angular dispersion, and fractional revivals of the wave packet are fully characterized while the ensemble keeps rotating in one direction. The present approach, providing an accurate view on unidirectional rotation in quantum regime, will guide more sophisticated molecular manipulations by utilizing its capability in capturing highly structured spatiotemporal evolution of molecular wave packets.

  • molecular rotational wave packet
  • coherent control
  • unidirectional molecular rotation
  • ion imaging

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