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Signatures of the continuum electron phase in molecular strong-field photoelectron holography


Laser-driven electron recollision is at the heart of the rapidly growing field of attosecond science. The recollision wavepacket is qualitatively described within the strong-field approximation, which commonly assumes tunnelling ionization and plane-wave propagation of the liberated electron in the continuum. However, with increasing experimental sophistication, refinements to this simple model have become necessary. Through careful modelling and measurements of laser-induced recollision holography using aligned N2 molecules, we demonstrate that the continuum electron wavepacket already carries a non-trivial spatial phase structure immediately following ionization. This effect is of rather general character: any molecule and any non-isotropic system that is ionized by a strong laser field will exhibit an offset in the phase of the continuum electron wavepacket. Specifically, this has important implications for any coherent scattering process in molecules, such as high-harmonic generation or laser-induced electron holography.

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Figure 1: Artist’s impression of the ionizing and recolliding wavepackets.
Figure 2: Measured and simulated photoelectron spectra showing the holographic interference.
Figure 3: Normalized difference (ND) plots.
Figure 4: Four field-free wavepacket scattering scenarios with corresponding final photoelectron spectra showing the holographic fringe pattern for each case.
Figure 5: Simulated two-dimensional continuum electron wavepackets.
Figure 6: Simulated three-dimensional continuum electron wavepackets.


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R.D. acknowledges support from DAAD and DFG.

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Authors and Affiliations



M.M., A.S., D.M.V., P.B.C. and R.D. conceived and designed the experiments. M.M. and A.S. performed the experiments. M.M., A.S. and R.D. analysed the experimental data. M.S. and S.P. built the theoretical codes and analysis tools. M.S. provided the interpretation of the experimental data and performed the theoretical modelling. All authors contributed to the writing of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to M. Spanner.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Meckel, M., Staudte, A., Patchkovskii, S. et al. Signatures of the continuum electron phase in molecular strong-field photoelectron holography. Nature Phys 10, 594–600 (2014).

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