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Nature. 2004 Feb 26;427(6977):817-21.

Atomic transient recorder.

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Institut für Photonik, Technische Universität Wien, Gusshausstrasse 27, A-1040 Wien, Austria.


In Bohr's model of the hydrogen atom, the electron takes about 150 attoseconds (1 as = 10(-18) s) to orbit around the proton, defining the characteristic timescale for dynamics in the electronic shell of atoms. Recording atomic transients in real time requires excitation and probing on this scale. The recent observation of single sub-femtosecond (1 fs = 10(-15) s) extreme ultraviolet (XUV) light pulses has stimulated the extension of techniques of femtochemistry into the attosecond regime. Here we demonstrate the generation and measurement of single 250-attosecond XUV pulses. We use these pulses to excite atoms, which in turn emit electrons. An intense, waveform-controlled, few cycle laser pulse obtains 'tomographic images' of the time-momentum distribution of the ejected electrons. Tomographic images of primary (photo)electrons yield accurate information of the duration and frequency sweep of the excitation pulse, whereas the same measurements on secondary (Auger) electrons will provide insight into the relaxation dynamics of the electronic shell following excitation. With the current approximately 750-nm laser probe and approximately 100-eV excitation, our transient recorder is capable of resolving atomic electron dynamics within the Bohr orbit time.


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