2019 New Initiative Grant
Noel Giebink, Ph.D. (PI) Associate Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering, Pennsylvania State University
Kenneth Knappenberger, Ph.D. (co-investigator) Professor, Department of Chemistry, Pennsylvania State University
The notion that optical environment can change the nature of a chemical reaction or the yield of particular products arises in the strong light-matter coupling regime, where the particles of light –photons – can no longer be distinguished from electronic (or vibrational) excitations of molecules. The resulting hybrid states, known as polaritons, are commonly formed by placing molecules within a microcavity (e.g. a closely-spaced pair of mirrors) and can have different energies, coherence, and vibrational characteristics than the bare molecules do outside of the cavity, resulting in new chemical properties for the hybrid system. Consequently, theoretical work has recently predicted that it may be possible to modify certain chemical reactions. The proposed research will experimentally explore this possibility by studying whether photoinduced charge transfer reactions between molecules are altered when the molecules exist within a microcavity as opposed to an open optical environment. Because photoinduced charge transfer is central to a wide range of chemical reactions, from photolithography to photosynthesis, the demonstration that it can be nontrivially influenced just by changing optical environment would have a broad scientific and technological impact extending to some of the key biological processes that underlie life itself.