Excess electrons in polar media, as water or ice, are screened by reorientation of the surrounding molecular dipoles. This process of electron solvation is of vital importance for various fields of physical chemistry and biology as, for instance, photosynthesis. Generation of such excess electrons in bulk water involves either photoionization of solvent molecules or doping with e.g. alkali atoms, involving possibly perturbing interactions of the system with the parent-cation. Such effects are avoided when using a surface science approach to electron solvation: In the case of polar adsorbate layers on metal surfaces, the substrate acts as an electron source from where photoexcited carriers are injected into the adlayer. Besides the investigation of electron solvation at such interfaces, this approach allows in addition for the investigation of heterogeneous electron transfer, as the excited solvated electron population continuously decays back to the metal substrate. In this manner, electron transfer and solvation processes are intimately connected at any polar adsorbate-metal interface. Here, we discuss recent experiments on the ultrafast dynamics of photoinduced electron transfer and solvation processes at amorphous ice-metal interfaces. Femtosecond time-resolved two-photon photoelectron spectroscopy is employed as a direct probe of the electron dynamics, which enables the analysis of all elementary processes: The charge injection across the interface, the subsequent electron localization and solvation, and the dynamics of electron transfer back to the substrate. Using surface science techniques to grow and characterize various well-defined ice structures, we gain detailed insight into the correlation between adsorbate structure and electron solvation dynamics, the location of the solvation site (bulk versus surface), and the role of the electronic structure of the underlying metal substrate on the electron transfer rate.
The original publication is available at link DOI: 10.1039/b800257f