Attosecond dynamics through a Fano resonance: Monitoring the birth of a photoelectron

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Science  11 Nov 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6313, pp. 734-738
DOI: 10.1126/science.aah5188

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Watching as helium goes topsy-turvy

Theorists have long pondered the underpinnings of the Fano resonance, a spectral feature that resembles adjacent rightside-up and upside-down peaks. An especially well-studied instance of this feature appears in the electronic spectrum of helium as a transient state undergoes delayed ionization. Two studies have now traced the dynamics of this state in real time. Gruson et al. used photoelectron spectroscopy to extract the amplitude and phase of the electron wave packet after inducing its interference with reference wave packets tuned into resonance at variable delays. Kaldun et al. used extreme ultraviolet absorption spectroscopy to probe the transient state while variably forcing ionization with a strong near-infrared field.

Science, this issue pp. 734 and 738


The dynamics of quantum systems are encoded in the amplitude and phase of wave packets. However, the rapidity of electron dynamics on the attosecond scale has precluded the complete characterization of electron wave packets in the time domain. Using spectrally resolved electron interferometry, we were able to measure the amplitude and phase of a photoelectron wave packet created through a Fano autoionizing resonance in helium. In our setup, replicas obtained by two-photon transitions interfere with reference wave packets that are formed through smooth continua, allowing the full temporal reconstruction, purely from experimental data, of the resonant wave packet released in the continuum. In turn, this resolves the buildup of the autoionizing resonance on an attosecond time scale. Our results, in excellent agreement with ab initio time-dependent calculations, raise prospects for detailed investigations of ultrafast photoemission dynamics governed by electron correlation, as well as coherent control over structured electron wave packets.

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