Decoding the dynamical information embedded in highly mixed quantum states

Annu Rev Phys Chem. 2000;51:323-53. doi: 10.1146/annurev.physchem.51.1.323.


The standard description of the vibrational and rotational motion of polyatomic molecules, as expressed by the distortable rotor/harmonic oscillator approximation, provides an adequate description of the molecular quantum states only in regions of low total state density. When the total state density is large, exceeding 100 states/cm(-1), the vibrational dynamics are "dissipative" and the fundamental process of intramolecular vibrational energy redistribution is operative. The presence of intramolecular vibrational energy redistribution leads to molecular quantum states of a qualitatively different nature. With respect to a normal-mode vibrational basis, these quantum states are "highly mixed" in their vibrational character and represent nuclear motion that is a combination of all the normal-mode motions. This review describes frequency domain spectroscopy techniques designed to probe the vibrational, rotational, and structural composition of these eigenstates. Recent work that investigates spectroscopy between highly mixed states is also reviewed.