Understanding the primary photophysical processes in molecules is essential for interpreting their photochemistry, because molecules rarely react from the initially excited electronic state. In this study the ultrafast excited-state dynamics of chlorophenylcarbene (CPC) and trifluoromethylphenylcarbene (TFPC), two species that are considered as models for carbene dynamics, were investigated by femtosecond time-resolved pump probe spectroscopy in the gas phase. Their dynamics was followed in real time by time-resolved photoionization and photoelectron imaging. CPC was excited at 265 nm into the 3 1A′ state, corresponding to excitation from a π-orbital of the aromatic ring into the LUMO. The LUMO contains a contribution of the p-orbital at the carbene center. Three time constants are apparent in the photoelectron images: A fast decay process with τ1 ≈ 40 fs, a second time constant of τ2 ≈ 350 fs, and an additional time constant of τ3 ≈ 1 ps. The third time constant is only visible in the time-dependence of low kinetic energy electrons. Due to the dense manifold of excited states between 3.9 and 5 eV, known from ab initio calculations, the recorded time-resolved electron images show broad and unstructured bands. A clear population transfer between the states thus can not directly be observed. The fast deactivation process is linked to either a population transfer between the strongly coupled excited states between 3.9 and 5.0 eV or the movement of the produced wave packet out of the Franck−Condon region. Since the third long time constant is only visible for photoelectrons at low kinetic energy, evidence is given that this time constant corresponds to the lifetime of the lowest excited A 1A′ state. The remaining time constant reflects a deactivation of the manifold of states in the range 3.9−5.0 eV down to the A 1A′ state.
J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2008, 130 (45), 14908-14909