Quantum optics: Attosecond pulses break into atomic interior
Munich based physicists have been able to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single attosecond pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom for the first time. To this end they generated attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity.
In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very bright, and the photons delivered must have sufficiently high energy. This combination of properties has been sought in laboratories around the world for the past 15 years. Physicists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (LAP), a joint venture between Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics (MPQ), have now succeeded in meeting the conditions necessary to achieve this goal. In their latest experiments, they have been able to observe the non-linear interaction of an attosecond pulse with electrons in one of the inner orbital shells around the atomic nucleus. In this context, the term 'non-linear' indicates that the interaction involves more than one photon (in this particular case two are involved). This breakthrough was made possible by the development of a novel source of attosecond pulses.
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