PerspectiveUltrafast Optics

Electrons catch a terahertz wave

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Science  22 Apr 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6284, pp. 410-411
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf6393

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Electron microscopy and diffraction are incredibly successful techniques for studying the structure of matter on the atomic scale. Making these techniques “ultrafast”—that is, using pulses of femtosecond duration—provides us with unprecedented microscopic vistas into how materials evolve on time scales typical of atomic motions (1, 2). One of the key challenges in this research area is the controlled generation of short flashes of electrons. On page 429 of this issue, Kealhofer et al. demonstrate a powerful means to shape electron beams in time through their interaction with terahertz electromagnetic fields (3).