Sub-optical-cycle light-matter energy transfer in molecular vibrational spectroscopy
in: Nature Communications (2022)
The evolution of ultrafast-laser technology has steadily advanced the level of detail in studies of light-matter interactions. Here, we employ electric-fieldresolved spectroscopy and quantum-chemicalmodelling to preciselymeasure and describe the complete coherent energy transfer between octave-spanning mid-infrared waveforms and vibratingmolecules in aqueous solution. The suboptical-cycle temporal resolution of our technique reveals alternating absorption and (stimulated) emission on a few-femtosecond time scale. This behaviour can only be captured when effects beyond the rotating wave approximation are considered. At a femtosecond-to-picosecond timescale, optical-phase-dependent coherent transients and the dephasing of the vibrations of resonantly excited methylsulfonylmethane (DMSO2) are observed. Ab initio modelling using density functional theory traces these dynamics back to molecular-scale sample properties, in particular vibrational frequencies and transition dipoles, as well as their fluctuation due to the motion of DMSO2 through varying solvent environments. Future extension of our study to nonlinear interrogation of higher-order susceptibilities is fathomable with state-of-the-art lasers.