Tracking primary photoinduced events in biomolecules with few-optical-cycle light pulses

author: Giulio Cerullo, National Laboratory for Ultrafast and Ultraintense Optical Science, Politecnico di Milano
published: Sept. 21, 2009,   recorded: May 2009,   views: 4480

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Many light-induced processes in organic molecules, such as energy relaxation, energy/charge transfer and conformational changes, occur on ultrafast timescales, ranging from 10-14 to 10-12 s. The speed of such elementary processes is intimately linked to their efficiency, making ultrafast optical spectroscopy an invaluable tool for their investigation. Pump-probe spectroscopy requires both short pulses, in order to observe fast dynamics, and broad frequency tunability, to excite a system on resonance and probe optical transitions occurring at different frequencies. Optical parametric amplifiers (OPAs) are ideal tools for such experiments, because they provide frequency tunability and support broad gain bandwidths, enabling the generation of very short pulses. In this talk I will describe a state of the art system, based on two synchronized OPAs, providing sub-20-fs temporal resolution over a very broad spectral range, from 400 nm to 1.5 mm. After reviewing the pulse generation techniques and the system performance, I will present selected examples of applications, such as: energy transfer in photosynthetic light harvesting complexes, electronic and vibrational dynamics in carbon nanotubes, isomerization of rhodopsin.

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