Poul Petersen
Assistant Professor

Poul Petersen


(607) 255-4303


Department of Chemistry & Chemical Biology
B46 Baker Laboratory
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853


Web Sites

Lab Web Site
Department Profile


Poul Petersen received a B.S. degree in 1998 and a Master’s degree in 2001 in Chemistry from Aarhus University, Denmark, and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from UC Berkeley in 2005.  He became an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry & Chemical Biology at Cornell University in July 2009.

Research Description

The Petersen group is focused on developing and applying novel transient IR spectroscopies to probe dynamics in the bulk and at surfaces.  Vibrational spectroscopy is a direct probe of molecular structure but is very challenging and thus heavily technology driven.  We are developing two new ultrafast IR methods:

(i) Coherent surface-specific 2D-IR (ss2D-IR) spectroscopy for directly probing the dynamics and coupling of molecules in interfacial regions.

(ii) Ultrafast continuum-IR spectroscopy for probing the entire mid-IR region in a single laser shot with femtosecond time resolution.

We are employing these two novel methods to study the following phenomena:

(i) Ultrafast dynamics of interfacial water relevant to environmental chemistry and biological systems

(ii) Interfacial electron transfer in dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs)

(iii) Proton transfer reactions of fundamental importance to biological function and energy conversion

(iv) Charge transfer and trap states in nanocrystalline material pertinent to technological applications


A.M. Stingel, C. Calabrese, P.B. Petersen, “Strong Intermolecular Vibrational Coupling through Cyclic Hydro-gen-Bonded Structures Revealed by Ultrafast Continuum mid-IR Spectroscopy”, J. Phys. Chem. B 117, 15714-15719 (2013)

C. Calabrese, A.M. Stingel, L. Shen, P.B. Petersen, “Ultrafast continuum mid-infrared spectroscopy: probing the entire vibrational spectrum in a single laser shot with femtosecond time resolution”, Opt. Lett. 37, 2265-2267 (2012)

A.E. Miller, P.B. Petersen, C.W. Hollars, R.J. Saykally, J. Heyda, P. Jungwirth, “Behavior of β- Amyloid 1-16 at the Air-Water Interface at Varying pH by Nonlinear Spectroscopy and Molecular Dynamics Simulations,” J. Phys. Chem. A 115, 5873-5880 (2011)

S.T. Roberts, K. Ramasesha, P.B. Petersen, A. Mandal, A. Tokmakoff, “Proton Transfer  inConcentrated Aqueous Hydroxide Visualized Using Ultrafast Infrared Spectroscopy”, J. Phys. Chem. A 115, 3957-3972 (2011)

Petersen, A. Tokmakoff, “Source for ultrafast continuum infrared and terahertz radiation”, Opt. Lett. 35, 1962-1964 (2010)

S.T. Roberts, P.B. Petersen, K. Ramasesha, A. Tokmakoff, I.S. Ufimtsev, T. J. Martinez, “Observation of a Zundel-like transition state during proton transfer in aqueous hydroxide solutions”, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 106, 15154-15159 (2009)

P.B. Petersen, S.T. Roberts, K. Ramasesha, D.G. Nocera, A. Tokmakoff, “Ultrafast N-H vibrational dynamics of cyclic doubly hydrogen-bonded homo- and heterodimers”, J. Phys. Chem. B 112, 13167-13171 (2008)

P.B. Petersen, R.J. Saykally, “Is the Liquid Water Surface Basic or Acidic? Macroscopic vs. Molecular- Scale Investigations”, Chem. Phys. Lett. 458, 255-261 (2008) Frontiers Article, Cover Article

D.E. Otten, P.B. Petersen, R.J. Saykally, “Observation of nitrate ions at the air/water interface by UV- second harmonic generation” Chem. Phys. Lett. 449, 261-265 (2007) Editor's Choice

P.B. Petersen, R.J. Saykally, “Comment on “Interfacial pH at an Isolated Silica-Water Surface”, J. Phys. Chem. B 110, 15037-15038 (2006) Comment

P.B. Petersen, R.J. Saykally, “Probing the Interfacial Structure of Aqueous Electrolytes with Femtosecond Second Harmonic Generation Spectroscopy,” J. Phys. Chem. B 110, 14060-14073 (2006) Feature article.