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Nature. 2016 Oct 20;538(7625):359-363. doi: 10.1038/nature19821.

Multi-petahertz electronic metrology.

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Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik, Hans-Kopfermann-Strasse 1, D-85748 Garching, Germany.


The frequency of electric currents associated with charge carriers moving in the electronic bands of solids determines the speed limit of electronics and thereby that of information and signal processing. The use of light fields to drive electrons promises access to vastly higher frequencies than conventionally used, as electric currents can be induced and manipulated on timescales faster than that of the quantum dephasing of charge carriers in solids. This forms the basis of terahertz (1012 hertz) electronics in artificial superlattices, and has enabled light-based switches and sampling of currents extending in frequency up to a few hundred terahertz. Here we demonstrate the extension of electronic metrology to the multi-petahertz (1015 hertz) frequency range. We use single-cycle intense optical fields (about one volt per ångström) to drive electron motion in the bulk of silicon dioxide, and then probe its dynamics by using attosecond (10-18 seconds) streaking to map the time structure of emerging isolated attosecond extreme ultraviolet transients and their optical driver. The data establish a firm link between the emission of the extreme ultraviolet radiation and the light-induced intraband, phase-coherent electric currents that extend in frequency up to about eight petahertz, and enable access to the dynamic nonlinear conductivity of silicon dioxide. Direct probing, confinement and control of the waveform of intraband currents inside solids on attosecond timescales establish a method of realizing multi-petahertz coherent electronics. We expect this technique to enable new ways of exploring the interplay between electron dynamics and the structure of condensed matter on the atomic scale.


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