Determining the structure of a molecule with laser-induced electron diffraction

Researchers show how laboratory-frame photoelectron spectra can be used directly to determine the molecular structure with atomic precision from laser-induced electron diffraction.

In a study recently published in Nature Communication, ICFO (Barcelona, Spain) researchers around Jens Biegert, in collaboration with researchers from Kansas State University, Max-Planck-Institut für Kernphysik (MPIK), Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB), and Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, report on an alternative and novel approach that retrieves accurate and precise information about the molecular structure without exact knowledge over the laser field. They successfully applied the method to imaging the gas-phase molecule carbonyl sulfide (OCS), in particular on the bond lengths between the constituent atoms, showing a significant bent and asymmetrically stretched configuration of the ionized OCS+ structure.

For this purpose, a reaction microscope was used that was developed and built at the MPIK in the group of Robert Moshammer from the department of Thomas Pfeifer. Here, this type of pulse spectroscopy, which goes back to Joachim Ullrich (formerly MPIK, since 2012 President of the PTB), has been successfully used for years to investigate time-resolved molecular dynamics in strong laser fields.

Original publication:

Molecular structure retrieval directly from laboratory-frame photoelectron spectra in laser-induced electron diffraction
A. Sanchez, K. Amini, S.-J. Wang, T. Steinle, B. Belsa, J. Danek, A. T. Le, X. Liu, R. Moshammer, T. Pfeifer, M. Richter, J. Ullrich, S. Gräfe, C. D. Lin and J. Biegert
Nature Communications 12, 1520 (2021), DOI:

Further information:

ICFO press information

Group „Ionized Atoms and Molecules in Strong Fields“ at MPIK

Group „Attoscience and Ultrafast Optics“ at ICFO


PD Dr. Robert Moshammer
Phone: (+49)6221-516-461
Email: robert.moshammermpi-hd.mpgde

Prof. Dr. Thomas Pfeifer
Phone: (+49)6221-516-380
Email: thomas.pfeifermpi-hd.mpgde

Prof. Dr. Jens Biegert
ICFO – The Institute of Photonic Sciences
Barcelona, Spanien
Phone: (+34)935534059
Email: jens.biegerticfoeu

Schematic illustration of the molecular structure of ionized Carbonyl Sulfide (OCS+) showing its bent and asymmetrical configuration and the bond lengths between atoms. ©ICFO