Photonic streaking of attosecond pulse trains

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High harmonic radiation, produced when intense laser pulses interact with matter, is composed of a train of attosecond pulses. Individual pulses in this train carry information on ultrafast dynamics that vary from one half-optical-cycle to the next. Here, we demonstrate an all-optical photonic streaking measurement that provides direct experimental access to each attosecond pulse by mapping emission time onto propagation angle. This is achieved by inducing an ultrafast rotation of the instantaneous laser wavefront at the focus. We thus time-resolve attosecond pulse train generation, and hence the dynamics in the nonlinear medium itself. We apply photonic streaking to harmonic generation in gases and directly observe, for the first time, the influence of non-adiabatic electron dynamics and plasma formation on the generated attosecond pulse train. These experimental and numerical results also provide the first evidence of the generation of attosecond lighthouses in gases, which constitute ideal sources for attosecond pump–probe spectroscopy.

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Figure 1: Principle of attosecond lighthouses and photonic streaking in gases.
Figure 2: Harmonic generation in Ne probed by photonic streaking.
Figure 3: Time-to-angle mapping in photonic streaking.
Figure 4: Ionization gating probed by photonic streaking.


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The authors acknowledge funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the National Research Council–Commissariat à l'énergie atomique et aux énergies renouvelables agreement. F.Q. acknowledges support from the European Research Council (ERC grant agreement no. 240013).

Author information

K.T.K., D.M.V., P.B.C. and F.Q. conceived the idea and designed the experiment. K.T.K., C.Z., T.R. and J.-F.H. performed the experiment and collected the data. K.T.K. and T.A. provided the numerical analysis. All authors contributed in analysing the experimental data and writing the manuscript.

Correspondence to Kyung Taec Kim or F. Quéré.

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Kim, K., Zhang, C., Ruchon, T. et al. Photonic streaking of attosecond pulse trains. Nature Photon 7, 651–656 (2013) doi:10.1038/nphoton.2013.170

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