The 11-cis to 11-trans torsional isomerization of retinal chromophore in rhodopsin has long been known to be involved in the early photochemistry of visual vision.1 Our recent work on generation of femtosecond pulses in the blue-green region of the spectrum made it possible to study this process directly. We have performed time-resolved absorption experiments on rhodopsin in protonated as well as deuterated aqueous environments at room temperature.2,3 These measurements test both the standard picture of rapid photoisomerization and also address the issue of whether proton translocation is also important in the initial step of vision,4 A 500-nm 150-fs pump pulse initiates the reaction and a white-light continuum probe is used to monitor absorbance transients in the 500- to 640-nm range. We observed two distinct kinetic components having 200-fs and 3-ps lifetimes.

© 1992 Optical Society of America

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