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Photoelectronic mapping of the spin–orbit interaction of intense light fields


The interaction between a quantum particle’s spin angular momentum1 and its orbital angular momentum2 is ubiquitous in nature. In optics, the spin–orbit optical phenomenon is closely related with the light–matter interaction3 and has been of great interest4,5. With the development of laser technology6, the high-power and ultrafast light sources now serve as a crucial tool in revealing the behaviour of matter under extreme conditions. A comprehensive knowledge of the spin–orbit interaction for intense light is of utmost importance. Here, we report the in situ modulation and visualization of the optical orbital-to-spin conversion in the strong-field regime. We show that, through manipulating the morphology of femtosecond cylindrical vector vortex pulses7 by a slit, the photon’s orbital angular momentum can be controllably transformed into spin after focusing. By employing a strong-field ionization experiment, the orbital-to-spin conversion can be imaged and measured through the photoelectron momentum distributions. Such detection and consequent control of the spin–orbit dynamics of intense laser fields has implications for controlling photoelectron holography and coherent extreme-ultraviolet radiation8.

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Fig. 1: Schematic of the experiment.
Fig. 2: Simulations of the longitudinal component of light’s intensity, and the local SAM and OAM distribution in the focal plane.
Fig. 3: Correlation between the orbital-to-spin conversion and strong-field ionization.
Fig. 4: The measured and simulated photoelectron momentum distributions.

Data availability

The data that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.


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We thank finance support by the National Science Foundation of China (grant numbers: 92050201, 918850111, 11774013, 11625414).

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Authors and Affiliations



Y.F. and Z.G. performed the experiments. Y.F. and Y.L. analysed and interpreted the data. Simulations were performed by Y.F. and M.H. This project was coordinated by Y.L. All authors discussed the results and wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to Yunquan Liu.

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Supplementary Figs. 1–3 and Discussion (five sections).

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Fang, Y., Han, M., Ge, P. et al. Photoelectronic mapping of the spin–orbit interaction of intense light fields. Nat. Photonics 15, 115–120 (2021).

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