Ionized Atoms and Molecules in Strong Fields
Elementary atomic and molecular reactions, which are fundamental to all chemical and biological processes, proceed on unthinkably short time scales. The atomic nuclei in molecules are vibrating around their equilibrium positions, electrons are moving in changing orbitals and valence electrons rearrange with the nuclei to form new compounds. In most cases all this happens within a few femtoseconds (10-15 s) or even faster (attoseconds, 10-18 s). By using dedicated techniques, we are able to visualize the motion of individual particles in order to reach a detailed better understanding and to uncover the underlying mechanisms. Possibly, at some day we may not only observe elementary chemical reactions but also steer them in a controlled way. In our experiments at the MPI for Nuclear Physics we use ultrashort and very intense laser pulses in combination with many-particle detection techniques, so-called reaction microscopes.