Electron-transfer reactions are ubiquitous in chemistry and biology. The electrons’ quantum nature allows their transfer across long distances. For example, in the well-known harpoon mechanism, electron transfer results in Coulombic attraction between initially neutral reactants, leading to a marked increase in the reaction rate. Here, we present a different mechanism in which electron transfer from a neutral reactant to a multiply charged cation results in strong repulsion that encodes the electron-transfer distance in the kinetic energy release. Three-dimensional coincidence imaging allows to identify such “inverse” harpoon products, predicted by nonadiabatic molecular dynamics simulations to occur between H2 and HCOH2+ following double ionization of isolated methanol molecules. These dynamics are experimentally initiated by single-photon double ionization with ultrafast extreme ultraviolet pulses, produced by high-order harmonic generation. A detailed comparison of measured and simulated data indicates that while the relative probability of long-range electron-transfer events is correctly predicted, theory overestimates the electron-transfer distance.
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