Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers Produce Firsts with Bursts of Light

26.07.2007
Team generates most energetic terahertz pulses yet, observes useful optical phenomena

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory have generated extremely short pulses of light that are the strongest of their type ever produced and could prove invaluable in probing the ultra-fast motion of atoms and electrons. The scientists also made the first observations of a phenomenon called cross-phase modulation with this high-intensity light - a characteristic that could be used in numerous new light source technologies.

The work, which was done at Brookhaven's Source Development Laboratory, an offshoot of the Lab's National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS), is described online in the July 23, 2007, edition of Physical Review Letters.

The light pulses used were in the terahertz (THz) range of the broad electromagnetic spectrum, found between the microwave and infrared range. Scientists send tight bunches of electrons at nearly the speed of light through a magnetic field to produce THz radiation at a trillion cycles per second - the terahertz frequency that gives the light its name and that makes them especially valuable for investigating biological molecules and imaging, ranging from tumor detection to homeland security.

The Brookhaven team is looking to expand the potential uses for this type of light by increasing the strength of individual THz pulses, a longtime goal for scientists in the field. By slamming an electron beam from an accelerator into an aluminum mirror, the researchers produced 100 microjoule (100 megawatt) single-cycle pulses - the highest energy ever achieved to date with THz radiation. For comparison, 100 megawatts is about the output of a utility company's electrical generator.

The combination of this newfound strength with ultra-fast pulses provides researchers with a powerful new tool to study the movement of a material's electrons (which zip around at the femtosecond, or quadrillionth of a second, timescale) or atoms (which move at the picosecond, or trillionth of a second, timescale).

"The goal is really to understand the properties of materials," said NSLS researcher Yuzhen Shen, the lead author of the paper. "One might ask what happens in a solid when light, electricity, or sound goes through it, and it's all related to atoms in a crystal wiggling around or the movement of electrons. So the effort surrounding ultra-fast pulses is going into making tools to probe the real fundamental properties of materials on the scales at which they move."

Using this strong light, researchers can "kick" molecular processes such as catalysis or electronic switching (important for developing data storage media) into action and watch their mechanisms on a very short timescale.

The team also found something surprising: the intensity of their THz pulses is so great that they introduce so-called "nonlinear optical effects," specifically, a phenomenon known as cross-phase modulation.

"When you pull on a spring, if you pull twice as hard, it stretches twice as much," said NSLS researcher Larry Carr. "But there's a limit where if you pull twice as hard, the spring doesn't move anymore. That's when it's called nonlinear. The same thing happens in materials. You let these short pulses pass through a material, and they stress it and pull some of the charges apart so they don't act in a linear manner."

As a result, the researchers can manipulate both the ultra-fast THz pulses and the material they interact with. Some of the simplest examples include changing the color of the light or turning the material into a focusing lens.

This is the first time cross-phase modulation has been observed in single-cycle THz pulses. Learning how to control this characteristic could lead to even more light source technologies.

This research was supported by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences within the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science, the Office of Naval Research, and Brookhaven's Laboratory Directed R&D funds.

Karen McNulty Walsh | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.bnl.gov

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Basque researchers turn light upside down
23.02.2018 | Elhuyar Fundazioa

nachricht Attoseconds break into atomic interior
23.02.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Attoseconds break into atomic interior

A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.

In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Basque researchers turn light upside down

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator

23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Attoseconds break into atomic interior

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>