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The Journal of Chemical Physics

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This paper presents the first study of the rotations of rigid molecules in 3 dimensions at the air/water interface, using the femtosecond time resolved sum frequency generation (SFG) technique. For the purpose of this research, the aromatic dye molecule C153 was chosen as an example of a molecule having two functional groups that are SFG active, one being the hydrophilic −−C==O group and the other the hydrophobic −−CF3 group. From polarized SFG measurements, the orientations of the two chromophores with respect to the surface normal were obtained. On combining these results with the known relative orientation of the two chromophores in the molecule yields the absolute orientation of C153 at the air/water interface. It was found that the −−CF3 axis projected towards the bulk air at an angle of 59 with respect to the interface normal and the −−C==O group projected towards the bulk water at an angle of 144○ . In order to observe the rotational motions of C153 at the air/water interface, the approach was used to perturb the ground electronic state equilibrium orientational distribution using a polarized resonant pump pulse, which preferentially excites ground state molecules that have their electronic S0 → S1 transition moment aligned closely to the electric field of the incident pump pulse. As a consequence of the photoselection perturbation, the orientational distribution of the remaining ground state molecules was not the equilibrium distribution. Similarly, the orientational distribution of the excited state molecules that were created by the polarized pump pulse was not in their final equilibrium orientational distribution. The rotational motions of the interfacial molecules towards equilibrium were obtained from time dependent measurements of the intensities of the SFG signal generated by the simultaneous incidence at the air/water interface of a visible probe pulse plus an IR probe pulse. In this way, the recovery times to achieve the orientational equilibrium of the two chromophores including the orientation of the normal of the C153 plane with respect to the interface were obtained. The photo-selection process shifts the average orientation angle of the hydrophilic −−C==O group by an increase of 4 ± 0.6 with a rotational recovery time constant of 130 ± 20 ps, which is the time to return to an orientational equilibrium distribution. The hydrophobic –CF3 group undergoes a shift that increases its angle by 8 ± 1.5 with a rotational recovery time constant of 210 ± 38 ps. We find that the orientational change of the molecular normal is 4 ± 0.5 and has a rotational recovery time constant of 125 ± 26 ps. The interface-specific time-dependent polarized measurements allowed us to monitor the orientational motions of molecules at interfaces, both in 3 dimensions and in real time.


This article may be downloaded for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the author and AIP Publishing. This article appeared in J. Chem. Phys. 150, 094709 (2019); and may be found at



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