We have investigated the ring opening of 1,3-cyclohexadiene to form 1,3,5-cis-hexatriene (Z-HT) using optical pulse shaping to enhance multiphoton excitation. A closed-loop learning algorithm was used to search for an optimal spectral phase function, with the effectiveness or fitness of each optical pulse assessed using the UV absorption spectrum. The learning algorithm was able to identify pulses that increased the formation of Z-HT by as much as a factor of 2 and to identify pulse shapes that decreased solvent fragmentation while leaving the formation of Z-HT essentially unaffected. The highest yields of Z-HT did not occur for the highest peak intensity laser pulses. Rather, negative quadratic phase was identified as an important control parameter in the formation of Z-HT
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