Tunneling electrons in a scanning tunneling microscope were used to excite specific vibrational quantum states of adsorbed water and hydroxyl molecules on a Ru(0 0 0 1) surface. The excited molecules relaxed by transfer of energy to lower energy modes, resulting in diffusion, dissociation, desorption, and surface-tip transfer processes. Diffusion of H2O molecules could be induced by excitation of the O-H stretch vibration mode at 445 meV. Isolated molecules required excitation of one single quantum while molecules bonded to a C atom required at least two quanta. Dissociation of single H2O molecules into H and OH required electron energies of 1 eV or higher while dissociation of OH required at least 2 eV electrons. In contrast, water molecules forming part of a cluster could be dissociated with electron energies of 0.5 eV.
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