Absolute-phase phenomena in photoionization with few-cycle laser pulses

Nature. 2001 Nov 8;414(6860):182-4. doi: 10.1038/35102520.


Currently, the shortest laser pulses that can be generated in the visible spectrum consist of fewer than two optical cycles (measured at the full-width at half-maximum of the pulse's envelope). The time variation of the electric field in such a pulse depends on the phase of the carrier frequency with respect to the envelope-the absolute phase. Because intense laser-matter interactions generally depend on the electric field of the pulse, the absolute phase is important for a number of nonlinear processes. But clear evidence of absolute-phase effects has yet to be detected experimentally, largely because of the difficulty of stabilizing the absolute phase in powerful laser pulses. Here we use a technique that does not require phase stabilization to demonstrate experimentally the influence of the absolute phase of a short laser pulse on the emission of photoelectrons. Atoms are ionized by a short laser pulse, and the photoelectrons are recorded with two opposing detectors in a plane perpendicular to the laser beam. We detect an anticorrelation in the shot-to-shot analysis of the electron yield.