A new class of advanced ultrafast imaging experiments, made possible by new light-sources such as X-ray free-electron lasers, combined with equally important advances in theory and quantum simulations, stand to transform our understanding of how molecules behave during photochemical processes. Our group is part of this global effort, and we specialize in quantum molecular dynamics simulations and develop new theory to interpret new experiments.
Photochemical reactions are fascinating: they are involved in photosynthesis (the main source of energy for life on Earth), the initial steps in human vision, and promising nanotechnologies such as light-driven molecular motors. These reactions play out on extremely short time scales, and the quantum underpinnings of chemistry are particularly evident, with for instance tunneling and nonadiabatic transition playing a decisive role. These attributes contribute to the challenge of studying photochemical reactions experimentally and theoretically.
Ultimately, the quantum nature of our world at a microscopic level provides an opportunity to accomplish new feats of science and engineering, unthinkable in our everyday classical world. Examples include quantum computing, coherent control of chemical reactions, photonics, and the design of new materials with interesting and useful properties. Eventually, we hope our research will contribute to the development of new technologies that are more efficient and require less resources.