Year of publication:
Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters
The concept of bonding and antibonding orbitals is fundamental in chemistry. The population of those orbitals and the energetic difference between the two reflect the strength of the bonding interaction. Weakening the bond is expected to reduce this energetic splitting, but the transient character of bond-activation has so far prohibited direct experimental access. Here we apply time-resolved soft X-ray spectroscopy at a free-electron laser to directly observe the decreased bonding-antibonding splitting following bond-activation using an ultrashort optical laser pulse.