Public Physics Lecture--Molecular Movies: How to make them and what are they good for?

  • May 29, 2018
  • 8 - 9 PM
  • Admission: Free
  • 301-209-3266
  • |


The rate of internal motion in small molecules is far too fast to be captured by conventional high speed cinematography. The scale of motion is determined by the molecular bond lengths (Angstroms) and binding energies (electron-volts) to be millionths of billionths of seconds (femtoseconds) or shorter. Yet, recent advances in laser technology have led to pulses of light so short and bright that for the first time we can consider lasers as strobe lights to make movies of internal motion in molecules. To interpret these stroboscopic motion pictures of the internal motion in atoms and small molecules, we must reconsider the concepts of motion and pictures on the quantum scale. Three kinds of laser sources are employed to capture this motion: Strong focused infrared lasers with pulse durations of a few femtoseconds; high harmonics sources of vacuum ultraviolet light, with pulses that can be shorter than one femtosecond; and femtosecond X-ray free electron lasers. I will show how these new tools are used together to track the internal motion in atoms and molecules, and reveal the underlying internal quantum mechanical mechanisms responsible for them.

About the Speaker: Philip H. Bucksbaum holds the Marguerite Blake Wilbur Chair in Natural Science at Stanford University, with appointments in Physics, Applied Physics, and in Photon Science at SLAC. He is a Fellow of the APS and the Optical Society, and has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He currently serves as APS Vice President and was Optical Society President in 2014. Bucksbaum received his Ph.D. in 1980 for atomic parity violation experiments under Professor Eugene Commins, with whom he also has co-authored a textbook, “Weak Interactions of Leptons and Quarks.” In 1981 he joined Bell Laboratories, where he pursued new applications of ultrafast coherent radiation from terahertz to vacuum ultraviolet, including strong-field laser-atom physics. He joined the University of Michigan in 1990. There he was founding Director of FOCUS, a National Science Foundation Physics Frontier Center, where he pioneered research using ultrafast lasers to control quantum systems. He also launched the first experiments in ultrafast x-ray science at the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Lab. In 2006 Bucksbaum moved to Stanford and SLAC, where he organized the PULSE Institute to develop research utilizing the world’s first hard xray free-electron laser, LCLS. His current research is in laser-interrogation of atoms and molecules to explore and image structure and dynamics on the femtosecond scale.



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