Direct Measurement of Light Waves

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Science  27 Aug 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5688, pp. 1267-1269
DOI: 10.1126/science.1100866

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The electromagnetic field of visible light performs ∼1015 oscillations per second. Although many instruments are sensitive to the amplitude and frequency (or wavelength) of these oscillations, they cannot access the light field itself. We directly observed how the field built up and disappeared in a short, few-cycle pulse of visible laser light by probing the variation of the field strength with a 250-attosecond electron burst. Our apparatus allows complete characterization of few-cycle waves of visible, ultraviolet, and/or infrared light, thereby providing the possibility for controlled and reproducible synthesis of ultrabroadband light waveforms.

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