We combine sub-20 fs transient absorption spectroscopy with state-of-theart computations to study the ultrafast photoinduced dynamics of trans-azobenzene (AB). We are able to resolve the lifetime of the ππ* state, whose decay within ca. 50 fs is correlated to the buildup of the nπ* population and to the emergence of coherences in the dynamics, to date unobserved. Nonlinear spectroscopy simulations call for the CNN inplane bendings as the active modes in the subps photoinduced coherent dynamics out of the ππ* state. Radiative to kinetic energy transfer into these modes drives the system to a high-energy planar nπ*/ground state conical intersection, inaccessible upon direct excitation of the nπ* state, that triggers an ultrafast (0.45 ps) nonproductive decay of the nπ* state and is thus responsible for the observed Kasha rule violation in UV excited trans-AB. On the other hand, cis-AB is built only after intramolecular vibrational energy redistribution and population of the NN torsional mode.
Date of publication:
The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, 9 (2018) 1534-1541