Attophysics or attosecond science is a branch of physics that focuses on processes occurring mostly in the electrons in molecules. These processes take place in a matter of seconds.
Technology advances and new theoretical and experimental approaches have made it possible to study the motion and dynamics of electrons. The effects of electrons at the molecular level are of particular interest and can help understand collective and particle-hole excitation.
The first experiments were conducted by research teams at the Technical University in Vienna and the University of Bielefeld in Germany. The researchers used short pulses to manipulate and rearrange electrons around an atom.
Pump probing methods are widely used in attosecond science, pump-probe spectroscopy being the least complex technique. Researchers use optical pulses with varying delay to study the processes that take place during chemical reactions. The first pulse, which is known as the pump, starts the chemical reaction. The second pulse, which functions as the probe, hits the reaction. Scientists study its reflection and transmission to learn more about different processes triggered by pump pulses. The goal is to reconstruct how the reaction occurs and progresses. This technique has different applications, one being to study how intense pulses affect samples and result in melting.
Other techniques are also used to generate isolated pulses, including ionization, double optical, and polarization gating. The polarization technique, for example, is used to polarize the central parts of pulses lineally while polarizing the trailing and leading edges of pulses in an elliptical fashion. This allows for higher laser intensity. This and other techniques have been devised to study the quantum mechanical phase, proton motion in methane and hydrogen molecules, and other processes and phenomena. The main goal is to study and better understand molecular and atomic processes. Attosecond pulses also offer scientists the chance to measure and manipulate quantum states.
Scientists at the National Research Council of Canada investigate different processes and reactions, including molecules and atoms in intense fields, molecular dynamics, attosecond huv sources, and femtosecond laser sources. The National Research Council of Canada collaborates with the University of Ottawa and is the home of the Attosecond Group. The Ottawa-based laboratory houses the fastest x-ray laser in Canada and was created with the help of funding by the federal government. The main goal is to improve quality of life, boost Canada’s economy, and create more jobs by investing in technological advances and scientific progress.
Key researchers at the National Research Council are Andre Staudte, David Villeneuve, and Paul Corkum. Professor Paul Corkum is a leading theoretical physicist and director of the Council. His main research focus is the effect of intense light pulses on solids, molecules, and atoms. David Villeneuve is an adjunct professor at the Énergie, Matériaux et Télécommunications and University of Ottawa. He has numerous publications on attosecond pulse generation, near-field imaging, molecular frame reconstruction, and electric-field transients. Andre Staudte is also a principle scientist with research interests in sub-cycle electron dynamics, tunnel ionization, time-resolving intra-atomic collisions, and sequential double ionization. The Attosecond Group works on multiple research projects with a focus on laser pulse generation, high harmonic spectroscopy, attosecond technology, and atomic and molecular dynamics. High harmonic generation, for example, is used to generate coherent bursts while pulse duration is measured by means of photoelectron streaking.
The Attosecond Group has produced a number of publications on harmonic generation in solid matter, attosecond pulse isolation, laser-induced holography to study molecular dynamics, frustrated double ionization.
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