Microscopic insight into heterogeneous electron transfer requires understanding of the participating donor and acceptor states and of their respective interaction. In the regime of strong electronic coupling two limits have been discussed where either the states overlap directly or are separated by a potential barrier. In both situations the transfer probability is determined by the magnitude of the wave function overlap, whereby in case of the potential barrier, its width and height are rate limiting. In our study we observe a dynamical crossover between these two regimes by investigating the electron transfer dynamics of localized, solvated electrons at ice-metal interfaces. Employing femtosecond time-resolved two-photon photoelectron spectroscopy we analyze the population dynamics of excess electrons in the ice layer which experience the competing processes of transfer to the metal electrode and energetic stabilization in the ice by molecular reorientation. Comparing the dynamics of D2O on Cu(111) and Ru(001) we observe an early regime at t < 300 fs where the transfer time is determined by wave function overlap with the metal and a second regime (t > 300 fs) where the transfer proceeds nearly independent of the substrate. Assignment of these two regimes to the established mechanisms of electron transfer is backed by an empirical model calculation that reproduces the experimental data in an excellent manner.
The publication is available at link DOI:10.1021/jp060538c