Next Generation Attosecond Technology (Translation Grant)

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Dept of Physics


Attosecond light sources have enabled scientists to observe directly the dynamics of atoms and molecules on their natural length (+ngstrom) and time (sub-femtosecond) scales. This frontier field has been called Attosecond Science, since the next smallest unit than a femtosecond is 1 attosecond (1 as) = 1/1,000,000,000,000,000,000 s. Electronic motion on this timescale underpins many microscopic natural phenomena, such as charge transfer within molecules and at surfaces. Therefore, Attosecond Science promises to have impact and application across the fields of physics, chemistry and eventually biology, as well as in nano-science and engineering. For example, scientists may soon be able to record in real-time the 3D evolution of a molecular electron during a chemical reactionWhat has unlocked this is the development of Attosecond Technology arising from the synergy of a range of technologies (including high-power femtosecond lasers, ultrafast and x-ray optics, electron imaging) and through increased understanding of the coherent interaction of atomic and molecular systems with both intense femtosecond laser pulses and synchronised pulses of short-wavelength radiation of attosecond duration often used in pump-probe configuration.The proposed research will build upon a substantial Attosecond Technological base built up in a previous Basic Technology project to develop the next generation of Attosecond Technology. The three main objectives are to construct robust sources of attosecond pulses that are broadly tunable in wavelength and thus much more versatile in their scientific applicability; to allow develop new techniques for the generation of deep ultra-violet attosecond pulses whose wavelength will permit them to couple directly to resonances in many material systems; and to explore new methods for probing attosecond dynamics in matter by interferometric measurements of the full electric field that is scattered or emitted by the sample. Successfully tackling these front-line challenges will lever a great deal of new scientific capability and is likely to have a pervasive effect on the field.