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Laser Spectroscopy of Highly Energetic Molecules

Project Full Title:

Laser Spectroscopy of Highly Energetic Molecules (HOPE STUDENTS ONLY)

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Project Description:

Laser Spectroscopy of Highly Energetic Molecules

Dr. Polik's research program is directed toward understanding the behavior of molecules with large amounts of energy, as it is these molecules which undergo chemical reaction.

Highly excited vibrational states of polyatomic molecules are experimentally studied by combining laser spectroscopy, molecular beam techniques, and high resolution dispersed fluorescence spectroscopy. The molecular beam cools molecules to a few degrees Kelvin, thereby removing spectral congestion. A narrowband laser is used to selectively excite sample molecules to a single quantum state in the first excited electronic state. The resulting fluorescence is dispersed with a monochromator, yielding a spectrum of highly excited levels in the ground electronic state. The fluorescence emission spectrum contains information about the energy levels and dynamics of the excited vibrational states. Results have been recorded and analyzed for H2CO/HDCO/D2CO, HFCO/DFCO, and HCCH.

This year a new project has been started to develop a source for producing small radicals, e.g., CHCl, CCl2, etc., and measure their dispersed fluorescennce spectrum.

Students working on this project will gain hands-on experience with Nd:YAG and tunable dye lasers, optics, a monochromator, a molecular beam chamber, vacuum systems, optical detection equipment, electronics, and signal conditioning equipment. Students participate in every aspect of the research process: review of the chemical literature, experiment design, apparatus construction, data acquisition, data analysis, interpretation and modeling, oral/written presentations, and manuscript preparation. The entire research group holds weekly meetings in which experimental techniques, computational results, related research in the literature, and their results are discussed. In short, students are active participants in all aspects of the scientific method, become well-trained to pursue scientific careers, and make major contributions to solving important scientific problems.

This research program is highly effective in training undergraduate students in physical chemistry, mathematics, physics, and computation. Between three and eight students conduct research during the academic year, and an average of five students conduct research each summer. In addition to this experimental program, please also see the related theoretical and computational research programs.

This project is open to Hope College students who are majoring in chemistry, physics, computer science, or mathematics.

For more information, check out Dr. Polik's Home Page.

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