Single-Cycle Nonlinear Optics

Science  20 Jun 2008:
Vol. 320, Issue 5883, pp. 1614-1617
DOI: 10.1126/science.1157846

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Nonlinear optics plays a central role in the advancement of optical science and laser-based technologies. We report on the confinement of the nonlinear interaction of light with matter to a single wave cycle and demonstrate its utility for time-resolved and strong-field science. The electric field of 3.3-femtosecond, 0.72-micron laser pulses with a controlled and measured waveform ionizes atoms near the crests of the central wave cycle, with ionization being virtually switched off outside this interval. Isolated sub-100-attosecond pulses of extreme ultraviolet light (photon energy ∼ 80 electron volts), containing ∼0.5 nanojoule of energy, emerge from the interaction with a conversion efficiency of ∼10–6. These tools enable the study of the precision control of electron motion with light fields and electron-electron interactions with a resolution approaching the atomic unit of time (∼24 attoseconds).

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