Stereodynamics describes how the vector properties of molecules, such as the directions in which they move and the axes about which they rotate, affect the probabilities (or cross-sections) of specific processes or transitions that occur on collision. The main aspects of stereodynamics in inelastic atom–molecule collisions can often be understood from classical considerations, in which the particles are represented by billiard-ball-like hard objects. In a quantum picture, however, the collision is described in terms of matter waves, which can also scatter into the region of the geometrical shadow of the object and reveal detailed information on the pure quantum-mechanical contribution to the stereodynamics. Here we present measurements of irregular diffraction patterns for NO radicals colliding with rare-gas atoms that can be explained by the analytical Fraunhofer model. They reveal a hitherto overlooked dependence on (or ‘propensity rule’ for) the magnetic quantum number m of the molecules, and a previously unrecognized type of quantum stereodynamics that has no classical analogue or interpretation.
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The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC grant agreement 335646 MOLBIL. This work is part of the research program of the Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter (FOM), which is financially supported by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). S.Y.T.v.d.M. acknowledges support from NWO via a VIDI and a TOP grant. The support of the UK EPSRC (to M.B. via Programme Grant EP/L005913/1) is gratefully acknowledged. S.D.S.G and M.B thank Cambio Ltd and P. Dean for generous support. The authors thank M. Lemeshko for carefully reading the manuscript and for valuable suggestions. Moreover, we thank L. Gerritsen, C. Berkhout, P. Claus, N. Janssen and A. van Roij for expert technical support.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Onvlee, J., Gordon, S., Vogels, S. et al. Imaging quantum stereodynamics through Fraunhofer scattering of NO radicals with rare-gas atoms. Nature Chem 9, 226–233 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/nchem.2640
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