Resonant intermolecular transfer of vibrational energy in liquid water

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Abstract

Many biological, chemical and physical processes involve the transfer of energy. In the case of electronic excitations, transfer between molecules is rapid, whereas for vibrations in the condensed phase, resonant energy transfer is an unlikely process because the typical timescale of vibrational relaxation (a few picoseconds) is much shorter than that of resonant intermolecular vibrational energy transfer1,2. For the OH-stretch vibration in liquid water, which is of particular importance due to its coupling to the hydrogen bond, extensive investigations have shown that vibrational relaxation takes place with a time constant of 740 ± 25 femtoseconds (ref. 7). So for resonant intermolecular energy transfer to occur in liquid water, the interaction between the OH-stretch modes of different water molecules needs to be extremely strong. Here we report time-resolved pump-probe laser spectroscopy measurements that reveal the occurrence of fast resonant intermolecular transfer of OH-stretch excitations over many water molecules before the excitation energy is dissipated. We find that the transfer process is mediated by dipole–dipole interactions (the Förster transfer mechanism9) and additional mechanisms that are possibly based on intermolecular anharmonic interactions involving hydrogen bonds. Our findings suggest that liquid water may play an important role in transporting vibrational energy between OH groups located on either different biomolecules or along extended biological structures. OH groups in a hydrophobic environment should accordingly be able to remain in a vibrationally excited state longer than OH groups in a hydrophilic environment.

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Figure 1: Rotational anisotropy R(τ)/R(0) as a function of delay.

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Acknowledgements

We thank H. Schoenmaker for technical support and W. van der Zande and P. van der Meulen for critically reading the manuscript. This work is part of the research programme of the “Stichting voor Fundamenteel Onderzoek der Materie” (FOM), which is financially supported by the “Nederlandse organisatie voor Wetenschappelijke Onderzoek” (NWO).

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Correspondence to Sander Woutersen.

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Woutersen, S., Bakker, H. Resonant intermolecular transfer of vibrational energy in liquid water. Nature 402, 507–509 (1999) doi:10.1038/990058

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