Novel Applications of Ultrafast Laser Spectroscopy

Marcos Dantus

MSU Foundation Professor

58 CEM


Adjunct Professor (Physics)

Research webpage

Primary Research Area

Physical (Ph)

Other Area(s) of Interest

Analytical (An)

Biological (Bi)

Chemical Physics (CP)


(Research Description PDF)

Ultrafast lasers, with pulse durations shorter than 10-13 s, less time than it takes for atoms to move, have already led to Nobel Prizes in Chemistry and Physics. Our group has two well-funded thrust areas research: (a) Understanding and controlling chemistry under intense laser field radiation: Exploring exotic molecular dynamics and mechanisms. (b) Quantum control of chemical reactions: New laser sources, pulse shapers, and computers are revolutionizing how we study materials and their chemical reactions.

Figure(a) Understanding and controlling chemistry under intense laser field radiation. Our common understanding of light-matter interactions fails at extreme intensities, especially when the field strength of the incident radiation is strong enough to liberate electrons. At intense enough fields those electrons become highly energetic, opening up an abundance of novel atomic and molecular processes to investigate. In our lab, we take advantage of laser sources and pulse shaping methods we have developed to understand and to control the dynamics of exotic chemical reactions in gas, liquids, and solids induced by strong laser fields. Our recent projects include study of exotic chemical reactions relevant to interstellar chemistry and the formation of H3 +. H3 + is the most important ion in the universe because it is responsible for the formation of most organic molecules in the universe and perhaps responsible for life in the universe. Its formation from organic molecules requires dissociation and formation of multiple chemical bonds. Our research group is discovering fundamental processes which proceed through the formation of a neutral H2 molecule that roams the precursor until it extracts an additional proton.

Superphotobase(b) Quantum control of chemical reactions. The ability to design light pulses that drive a specific chemical reaction enables technological advances in a range of fields from sensing to energy conversion, where control of energy and dynamics on quantum length scales could lead to greater efficiency and specificity. Thus, it is essential that new strategies towards this grand challenge are developed. This project is enhanced by close collaboration between synthesis, theory, and spectroscopy. A specific goal is to understand how to circumvent spontaneous energy flow to achieve chemical reactivity in excited states. The capabilities developed here will influence a range of fields that benefit from precise control of quantum objects, e.g. novel strategies for super-resolution microscopy, coherent control of chemical reactions, nanophotolythography, and strategies for creating luminescent centers in transparent materials that can be used for quantum information sciences.


This project implements novel strategies for quantum control of energy flow and reactivity in large organic molecules. Recognizing that different electronic excited states may be highly reactive, shaped laser pulses will be used to (a) populate electronic states with desirable reactivity, and (b) minimize the probability of spontaneous transition out of the desired electronic state. In pursuit of (b), quantum control strategies that range from semiclassical (driving the vibrational wave packet along a particular reaction coordinate) to quantum strategies with no classical analogue will be used. For example, topological effects near intersections between electronic states can be exploited to influence the reaction outcome and strong coupling, where the potential energy surfaces are dressed by the light field, can alter the natural energy flow enhancing coherence with the driving field.

Selected Publications

Mechanisms and time-resolved dynamics for trihydrogen cation (H3 +) formation from organic molecules in strong laser fields, N. Ekanayake, M. Nairat, B. Kaderiya, P. Feizollah, B. Jochim, T. Severt, B. Berry, K. Raju P., K.D. Carnes, S. Pathak, D. Rolles, A. Rudenko, I. Ben-Itzhak, C.A. Mancuso, B.S. Fales, J.E. Jackson, B.G. Levine, and M. Dantus, Sci. Rep. 2017, 7, 4703.

Time-resolved signatures across the intramolecular response in substituted cyanine dyes, M. Nairat, M. Webb; M.P. Esch, V.V. Lozovoy, B.G. Levine and M. Dantus, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 2017, 19, 14085-14095.

Eye-safe near-infrared trace explosives detection and imaging, G. Rasskazov, A. Ryabtsev, and M. Dantus, Opt. Express 2017, 25, 5832-5840.

Femtosecond real-time probing of reactions MMXVII: The predissociation of sodium iodide in the A 0+ state, G. Rasskazov, M. Nairat, I. Magoulas, V.V. Lozovoy, P. Piecuch, and M. Dantus, Chem. Phys. Lett. 2017, in press.

Multiphoton excited hemoglobin fluorescence and third harmonic generation for non-invasive microscopy of stored blood, I. Saytashev, R. Glenn, G.A. Murashova, S. Osseiran, D. Spence, C.L. Evans, And M. Dantus, Biomed. Opt. Express 2016, 7, 3449-3460.

Stain-free histopathology by programmable supercontinuum pulses, H. Tu, Y. Liu, D. Turchinovich, M. Marjanovic, J.K. Lyngsø, J. Lægsgaard, E.J. Chaney, Y. Zhao, S. You, W.L. Wilson, B. Xu, M. Dantus and S.A. Boppart, Nat. Photonics 2016, 10, 534-540.


University Distinguished Professor 2015

MSU Foundation Professor 2015

B.A. & M.A., 1985, Brandeis Univ.

Ph.D., 1991, California Institute of Technology

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, 1991-1993, California Institute of Technology.


2016 University Distinguished Professor in Chemistry and Physics Michigan State University
2016 MSU Foundation Professor Michigan State University
2015 Fellow of the American Physical Society
2014 Elected Fellow of the Optical Society of America
2014 Elected Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors
2013 MSU Innovator of the Year award
2010 Science and Technology Awards from Corp! magazine Biophotonic Solutions
2008 Distinguished Faculty Award
2001 Featured in article ACS 125th Anniversary Issue of Chemical and Engineering News
1998 Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
1998 Teacher-Scholar Award Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation
1996 Eli Lilly Teaching Fellowship Michigan State University
1995 Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering The David and Lucile Packard Foundation
1995 Beckman Young Investigator Award Beckman Foundation
1994 General Electric Foundation Faculty Award General Electric
1993 New Faculty Award Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation
1992 Nobel Laureate Signature award for Graduate Education in Chemistry American Chemical Society
1991 Ph.D. California Institute of Technology
1991 - 1993 Postdoctoral Research Fellow California Institute of Technology
1991 Milton and Francis Clauser Doctoral Prize California Institute of Technology
1991 The Herbert Newby McCoy Award California Institute of Technology
1985 Melvin M. Snider Prize in Chemistry Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
1985 Earl C. Anthony Fellowship California Institute of Technology
1985 Bachelor of Arts Magna Cum Laude Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
1985 Phi Beta Kappa Phi Beta Kappa (Brandeis University, Waltham, MA)
1985 M.A. Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
1985 Bachelor of Arts Brandeis University, Waltham, MA