The final state distribution of carbon monoxide produced in the photodissociation of the formyl (HCO) radical has been studied both experimentally and theoretically. Renner–Teller coupling between the excited HCO
state and the ground state leads to dissociation and yields H and CO. Vibrational and rotational distributions have been measured for CO produced after excitation to specific vibrational levels on the
transition of HCO cooled in a supersonic expansion. The strongest transitions are for excitation to vibrational states with six to 16 quanta in the bending mode, and dissociation from these states produces inverted CO rotational distributions with average rotational quantum numbers <J
≳ in the 22–33 range. The value of <J
≳ increases monotonically with the vibrational quantum number describing the bend of the excited triatomic. Experiments involving excitation of one quantum of the C–H stretching motion have revealed that this vibration results in increased rotational excitation of the product CO with values of <J
≳ as high as 41. In contrast, experiments indicate that the C–O stretching mode of HCO acts nearly as a spectator during the dissociation process. Excitation of HCO states with one quantum of C–O stretch yields vibrationally excited CO as the dominant dissociation product, but with a rotational distribution similar to that for CO(ν=0) produced following the excitation of HCO states without the quantum of C–O stretch. Classical trajectory calculations on an ab initio
potential energy surface have modeled many of the experimental features and trends of the CO product distributions. There are, however, some discrepancies in the positions of rotational maxima and in the efficiency of the coupling of the C–O vibration of HCO to the dissociation coordinate. It is not clear whether these are due to approximations made in the modeling or inaccuracies in the potential energy surface.