Indexed on: 15 Nov '11Published on: 15 Nov '11Published in: Accounts of Chemical Research
Since the pioneering work of Kai Siegbahn, electron spectroscopy for chemical analysis (ESCA) has been developed into an indispensable analytical technique for surface science. The value of this powerful method of photoelectron spectroscopy (PES, also termed photoemission spectroscopy) and Siegbahn's contributions were recognized in the 1981 Nobel Prize in Physics. The need for high vacuum, however, originally prohibited PES of volatile liquids, and only allowed for investigation of low-vapor-pressure molecules attached to a surface (or close to a surface) or liquid films of low volatility. Only with the invention of liquid beams of volatile liquids compatible with high-vacuum conditions was PES from liquid surfaces under vacuum made feasible. Because of the ubiquity of water interfaces in nature, the liquid water-vacuum interface became a most attractive research topic, particularly over the past 10 years. PES studies of these important aqueous interfaces remained significantly challenging because of the need to develop high-pressure PES methods. For decades, ESCA or PES (termed XPS, for X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, in the case of soft X-ray photons) was restricted to conventional laboratory X-ray sources or beamlines in synchrotron facilities. This approach enabled frequency domain measurements, but with poor time resolution. Indirect access to time-resolved processes in the condensed phase was only achieved if line-widths could be analyzed or if processes could be related to a fast clock, that is, reference processes that are fast enough and are also well understood in the condensed phase. Just recently, the emergence of high harmonic light sources, providing short-wavelength radiation in ultrashort light pulses, added the dimension of time to the classical ESCA or XPS technique and opened the door to (soft) X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy with ultrahigh time resolution. The combination of high harmonic light sources (providing radiation with laserlike beam qualities) and liquid microjet technology recently enabled the first liquid interface PES experiments in the IR/UV-pump and extreme ultraviolet-probe (EUV-probe) configuration. In this Account, we highlight features of the technology and a number of recent applications, including extreme states of matter and the discovery and detection of short-lived transients of the solvated electron in water. Properties of the EUV radiation, such as its controllable polarization and features of the liquid microjet, will enable unique experiments in the near future. PES measures electron binding energies and angular distributions of photoelectrons, which comprise unique information about electron orbitals and their involvement in chemical bonding. One of the future goals is to use this information to trace molecular orbitals, over time, in chemical reactions or biological transformations.