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Atomic transient recorder


In Bohr's model of the hydrogen atom, the electron takes about 150 attoseconds (1 as = 10-18 s) to orbit around the proton, defining the characteristic timescale for dynamics in the electronic shell of atoms. Recording atomic transients in real time requires excitation and probing on this scale. The recent observation of single sub-femtosecond (1 fs = 10-15 s) extreme ultraviolet (XUV) light pulses1 has stimulated the extension of techniques of femtochemistry2 into the attosecond regime3,4. Here we demonstrate the generation and measurement of single 250-attosecond XUV pulses. We use these pulses to excite atoms, which in turn emit electrons. An intense, waveform-controlled, few cycle laser pulse5 obtains ‘tomographic images’ of the time-momentum distribution of the ejected electrons. Tomographic images of primary (photo)electrons yield accurate information of the duration and frequency sweep of the excitation pulse, whereas the same measurements on secondary (Auger) electrons will provide insight into the relaxation dynamics of the electronic shell following excitation. With the current 750-nm laser probe and 100-eV excitation, our transient recorder is capable of resolving atomic electron dynamics within the Bohr orbit time.

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Figure 1: Principle of the atomic transient recorder.
Figure 2: Electron streak records in specific cases.
Figure 3: Streaked photoelectron spectra recorded at a fixed delay of probe laser light.
Figure 4: ATR measurement: a series of tomographic projections (streaked kinetic energy spectra) of the initial time–momentum distribution of photoelectrons knocked out by a single sub-fs XUV pulse (in false-colour representation).
Figure 5: Selected streaked spectra from the ATR measurement of photoelectron emission from neon excited with a 93-eV sub-fs pulse (Fig. 4).

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This work was sponsored by the Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung (Austria), the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and the Volkswagenstiftung (Germany) and by the European Union's Human Potential Programme.

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Correspondence to F. Krausz.

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Kienberger, R., Goulielmakis, E., Uiberacker, M. et al. Atomic transient recorder. Nature 427, 817–821 (2004).

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