PerspectivePhysics

Controlling Atomic Line Shapes

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Science  10 May 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6133, pp. 694-695
DOI: 10.1126/science.1238396

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Summary

The spectroscopy of light absorption is an essential tool for uncovering the microscopic structure of a material. The observed spectral line positions reveal the energy levels of the excited quantum states, whereas the line shapes are determined by how the material relaxes after light is absorbed. In the optical frequency regime, the absorption profile has a symmetric shape. By coupling the material to an intense optical laser, however, the absorption can be controlled, leading to many interesting phenomena such as electromagnetically induced transparency (EIT) (1), slow and stopped light (2), and others. Extending such manipulations to extreme ultraviolet (XUV) and soft x-ray frequencies has presented a challenge. With the advent of intense ultrafast few-femtosecond infrared lasers in recent years, as reported on page 716 of this issue, Ott et al. (3) demonstrate that such manipulations are now possible.