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Nature. 2005 May 26;435(7041):470-4.

Quantum interference during high-order harmonic generation from aligned molecules.

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Department of Physics, Graduate School of Science, The University of Tokyo, 7-3-1, Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan.


High-order harmonic generation (HHG) from atoms and molecules offers potential application as a coherent ultrashort radiation source in the extreme ultraviolet and soft X-ray regions. In the three-step model of HHG, an electron tunnels out from the atom and may recombine with the parent ion (emitting a high-energy photon) after undergoing laser-driven motion in the continuum. Aligned molecules can be used to study quantum phenomena in HHG associated with molecular symmetries; in particular, simultaneous observations of both ion yields and harmonic signals under the same conditions serve to disentangle the contributions from the ionization and recombination processes. Here we report evidence for quantum interference of electron de Broglie waves in the recombination process of HHG from aligned CO2 molecules. The interference takes place within a single molecule and within one optical cycle. Characteristic modulation patterns of the harmonic signals measured as a function of the pump-probe delay are explained with simple formulae determined by the valence orbital of the molecules. We propose that simultaneous observations of both ion yields and harmonic signals can serve as a new route to probe the instantaneous structure of molecular systems.


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