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The behavior of a molecule is determined by the interplay of its various quantum states. Using laser spectroscopy, researchers have probed these states and their dynamics for small molecules. These measurements, however, haven’t previously been possible for molecules containing tens of atoms, whose crowded spectra are difficult to interpret. Now Lee Liu of JILA and the University of Colorado, Boulder, and colleagues have shown they can selectively excite the mixed rotational-vibrational, or “rovibrational,” quantum states of a molecule composed of 60 carbon atoms and then measure how these states decay following molecular collisions [1]. The approach opens opportunities for understanding and controlling such complex quantum systems.

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