Multi-petahertz electronic metrology

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The frequency of electric currents associated with charge carriers moving in the electronic bands of solids determines the speed limit of electronics and thereby that of information and signal processing1. The use of light fields to drive electrons promises access to vastly higher frequencies than conventionally used, as electric currents can be induced and manipulated on timescales faster than that of the quantum dephasing of charge carriers in solids2. This forms the basis of terahertz (1012 hertz) electronics in artificial superlattices2, and has enabled light-based switches3,4,5 and sampling of currents extending in frequency up to a few hundred terahertz. Here we demonstrate the extension of electronic metrology to the multi-petahertz (1015 hertz) frequency range. We use single-cycle intense optical fields (about one volt per ångström) to drive electron motion in the bulk of silicon dioxide, and then probe its dynamics by using attosecond (10−18 seconds) streaking6,7 to map the time structure of emerging isolated attosecond extreme ultraviolet transients and their optical driver. The data establish a firm link between the emission of the extreme ultraviolet radiation and the light-induced intraband, phase-coherent electric currents that extend in frequency up to about eight petahertz, and enable access to the dynamic nonlinear conductivity of silicon dioxide. Direct probing, confinement and control of the waveform of intraband currents inside solids on attosecond timescales establish a method of realizing multi-petahertz coherent electronics. We expect this technique to enable new ways of exploring the interplay between electron dynamics and the structure of condensed matter on the atomic scale.

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Figure 1: Attosecond pulse metrology in bulk SiO2.
Figure 2: Interband versus intraband dynamics in SiO2.
Figure 3: Control of multi-petahertz currents in SiO2.
Figure 4: Phase coherence of multi-petahertz currents and the dynamic conductivity of SiO2.


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This work was supported by a European Research Council grant (Attoelectronics-258501), the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Cluster of Excellence, Munich Centre for Advanced Photonics, the Max Planck Society and the European Research Training Network MEDEA.

Author information

M.G. and M.Z. conducted the experiments; E.G. planned the experiments and supervised the project; M.G., H.L., T.K., T.T.L. and A.G. conducted the simulations; and M.G. and E.G. interpreted the experimental data and contributed to the preparation of the manuscript.

Correspondence to E. Goulielmakis.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Nature thanks M. Chini, U. Höfer and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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This file contains Supplementary Text and Data 1-11, Supplementary Figures 1-21 and additional references. (PDF 3595 kb)

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Garg, M., Zhan, M., Luu, T. et al. Multi-petahertz electronic metrology. Nature 538, 359–363 (2016) doi:10.1038/nature19821

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