Site- and energy-selective slow-electron production through intermolecular Coulombic decay

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Abstract

Irradiation of matter with light tends to electronically excite atoms and molecules, with subsequent relaxation processes determining where the photon energy is ultimately deposited and electrons and ions produced. In weakly bound systems, intermolecular Coulombic decay1 (ICD) enables very efficient relaxation of electronic excitation through transfer of the excess energy to neighbouring atoms or molecules that then lose an electron and become ionized2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9. Here we propose that the emission site and energy of the electrons released during this process can be controlled by coupling the ICD to a resonant core excitation. We illustrate this concept with ab initio many-body calculations on the argon–krypton model system, where resonant photoabsorption produces an initial or ‘parent’ excitation of the argon atom, which then triggers a resonant-Auger-ICD cascade that ends with the emission of a slow electron from the krypton atom. Our calculations show that the energy of the emitted electrons depends sensitively on the initial excited state of the argon atom. The incident energy can thus be adjusted both to produce the initial excitation in a chosen atom and to realize an excitation that will result in the emission of ICD electrons with desired energies. These properties of the decay cascade might have consequences for fundamental and applied radiation biology and could be of interest in the development of new spectroscopic techniques.

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Figure 1: Schematic illustration of the RA–ICD cascade.
Figure 2: Spectra of the ICD electrons emitted in the RA–ICD cascades in ArKr.

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Acknowledgements

The research leading to these results received funding from the European Research Council under the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC Advanced Investigator Grant no. 227597. P.K. acknowledges the support from the Czech Science Foundation (grant no. P208/12/0521).

Author information

K.G., A.I.K. and L.S.C. had the idea for the cascade mechanism and its potential consequences. P.K. computed the lifetimes, and K.G. and A.I.K. evaluated the electronic spectra. K.G., A.I.K. and L.S.C. wrote the paper.

Correspondence to Kirill Gokhberg or Alexander I. Kuleff.

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Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Figure 1 Model potential energy curves of the initial and final ICD states of ArKr produced on excitation at 246.51 eV.

The horizontal lines indicate the potential energy curves of the excited valence-ionized states produced through the resonant Auger decay of the parent state following Ar() core excitation at 246.51 eV. The steep curves indicate the potential energy of the two-site doubly ionized final states obtained after ICD. The relative populations of the final resonant Auger states are given in per cent. Only states acquiring more than 5% of the total population are depicted. The equilibrium distance of the neutral ArKr (Req = 3.88 Å) is shown as a vertical dotted line.

Extended Data Figure 2 Model potential energy curves of the initial and final ICD states of ArKr produced on excitation at 246.93 eV.

The horizontal lines indicate the potential energy curves of the excited valence-ionized states produced through the resonant Auger decay of the parent state following Ar() core excitation at 246.93 eV. The steep curves indicate the potential energy of the two-site doubly ionized final states obtained after ICD. The relative populations of the final resonant Auger states are given in per cent. Only states acquiring more than 5% of the total population are depicted. The equilibrium distance of the neutral ArKr (Req = 3.88 Å) is shown as a vertical dotted line.

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Gokhberg, K., Kolorenč, P., Kuleff, A. et al. Site- and energy-selective slow-electron production through intermolecular Coulombic decay. Nature 505, 661–663 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature12936

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