X-ray free-electron lasers have, over the past decade, opened up the possibility of understanding the ultrafast response of matter to intense X-ray pulses. In earlier research on atoms and small molecules, new aspects of this response were uncovered, such as rapid sequences of inner-shell photoionization and Auger ionization. Here, we studied a larger molecule, buckminsterfullerene (C60), exposed to 640 eV X-rays, and examined the role of chemical effects, such as chemical bonds and charge transfer, on the fragmentation following multiple ionization of the molecule. To provide time resolution, we performed femtosecond-resolved X-ray pump/X-ray probe measurements, which were accompanied by advanced simulations. The simulations and experiment reveal that despite substantial ionization induced by the ultrashort (20 fs) X-ray pump pulse, the fragmentation of C60 is considerably delayed. This work uncovers the persistence of the molecular structure of C60, which hinders fragmentation over a timescale of hundreds of femtoseconds. Furthermore, we demonstrate that a substantial fraction of the ejected fragments are neutral carbon atoms. These findings provide insights into X-ray free-electron laser-induced radiation damage in large molecules, including biomolecules.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)