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J Chem Phys. 2008 Feb 7;128(5):054302. doi: 10.1063/1.2823101.

Fragmentation of ionized doped helium nanodroplets: theoretical evidence for a dopant ejection mechanism.

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  • 1University of Minnesota, 207 Pleasant Street S.E., 230 Smith Hall, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455-0431, USA.


We report a theoretical study of the effect induced by a helium nanodroplet environment on the fragmentation dynamics of a dopant. The dopant is an ionized neon cluster Ne(n) (+) (n=4-6) surrounded by a helium nanodroplet composed of 100 atoms. A newly designed mixed quantum/classical approach is used to take into account both the large helium cluster zero-point energy due to the light mass of the helium atoms and all the nonadiabatic couplings between the Ne(n) (+) potential-energy surfaces. The results reveal that the intermediate ionic dopant can be ejected from the droplet, possibly with some helium atoms still attached, thereby reducing the cooling power of the droplet. Energy relaxation by helium atom evaporation and dissociation, the other mechanism which has been used in most interpretations of doped helium cluster dynamics, also exhibits new features. The kinetic energy distribution of the neutral monomer fragments can be fitted to the sum of two Boltzmann distributions, one with a low kinetic energy and the other with a higher kinetic energy. This indicates that cooling by helium atom evaporation is more efficient than was believed so far, as suggested by recent experiments. The results also reveal the predominance of Ne(2) (+) and He(q)Ne(2) (+) fragments and the absence of bare Ne(+) fragments, in agreement with available experimental data (obtained for larger helium nanodroplets). Moreover, the abundance in fragments with a trimeric neon core is found to increase with the increase in dopant size. Most of the fragmentation is achieved within 10 ps and the only subsequent dynamical process is the relaxation of hot intermediate He(q)Ne(2) (+) species to Ne(2) (+) by helium atom evaporation. The dependence of the ionic fragment distribution on the parent ion electronic state reached by ionization is also investigated. It reveals that He(q)Ne(+) fragments are produced only from the highest electronic state, whereas He(q)Ne(2) (+) fragments originate from all the electronic states. Surprisingly, the highest electronic states also lead to fragments that still contain the original ionic dopant species. A mechanism is conjectured to explain this fragmentation inhibition.

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