Riding the Attosecond Train

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Science  30 Jan 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5658, pp. 591
DOI: 10.1126/science.303.5658.591d

The lyrics from the Curtis Mayfield song, “People get ready, there's a train a-comin' … you just get on board” could be adopted as the motto of the ultrafast laser community. With the advent of attosecond laser pulses now comes the potential for probing and controlling some of the fastest electronic processes known—the electron dynamics within the atom. When an atom is hit by an intense laser beam, the electrons can be excited by the laser field and flung into higher energy orbits around the nucleus. With relatively long laser pulses, these orbits are a coherent sum of many different quantum paths and are generally nonspecific. Schafer et al. present calculations showing that by subjecting the atoms to a train of attosecond laser pulses at just the right time during the cycle of the longer pulse, the electrons can be made to track specific orbits. The ability to control the quantum paths of electrons around atoms will find immediate use across a range of applications from precision spectroscopy to metrological clocks. — ISO

Phys. Rev. Lett. 92, 023003 (2004).

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