A team of researchers from the University of Rostock and the Max Born Institute in Berlin demonstrated a new way to turn initially transparent nanoparticles suddenly into strong absorbers for intense laser light and let them explode.
Intense laser pulses can transform transparent material into a plasma that captures energy of the incoming light very efficiently. Scientists from Berlin and Rostock discovered a trick to start and control this process in a way that is so efficient that it could advance methods in nanofabrication and medicine.
The light-matter encounter was studied by a team of physicists from the Institute of Physics of the University of Rostock and from the Max Born Institute for Nonlinear Optics and Short Pulse Spectroscopy (MBI) in Berlin.
The researchers studied the interaction of intense near-infrared (NIR) laser pulses with tiny, nanometer-sized particles that contain only a few thousand Argon atoms – so-called atomic nanoclusters. The visible NIR light pulse alone can only generate a plasma if its electromagnetic waves are so strong that they rip individual atoms apart into electrons and ions.
The scientists could outsmart this so-called ignition threshold by illuminating the clusters with an additional weak extreme-ultraviolet (XUV) laser pulse that is invisible to the human eye and lasts only a few femtoseconds (a femtosecond is a millionth of a billionth of a second).
With this trick the researchers could “switch on” the energy transfer from the near-infrared light to the particle at unexpectedly low NIR intensities and created nano-fireworks, during which electrons, ions and colourful fluorescence light are sent out from the clusters in different directions (Figure 2).
Their results open unprecedented opportunities for both fundamental laser-matter research and applications and was published in the latest issue of Physical Review Letters.
The experiments were carried out at the Max Born Institute at a 12 meter long high-harmonic generation (HHG) beamline. “The observation that argon clusters were strongly ionized even at moderate NIR laser intensities was very surprising”, explains Dr. Bernd Schütte from MBI, who conceived and performed the experiments. “Even though the additional XUV laser pulse is weak, its presence is crucial: without the XUV ignition pulse, the nanoparticles remained unaffected and transparent for the NIR light (Figure 1).”
Theorists around Prof. Thomas Fennel from the University of Rostock modelled the light-matter processes with numerical simulations and uncovered the origin of the observed synergy of the two laser pulses.
They found that only a few seed electrons created by the ionizing radiation of the XUV pulse are sufficient to start a process similar to a snow avalanche in the mountains. The seed electrons are heated in the NIR laser light and kick out even more electrons.
“In this avalanching process, the number of free electrons in the nanoparticle increases exponentially”, explains Prof. Fennel. “Eventually, the nanoscale plasma in the particles can be heated so strongly that highly charged ions are created.”
The novel concept of starting ionization avalanching with XUV light makes it possible to spatially and temporally control the strong-field ionization of nanoparticles and solids. Using HHG pulses paves the way for monitoring and controlling the ionization of nanoparticles on attosecond time scales, which is incredibly fast. One attosecond compares to a second as one second to the age of the universe.
Moreover, the ignition method is expected to be applicable also to dielectric solids. This makes the concept very interesting for applications, in which intense laser pulses are used for the fabrication of nanostructures.
By applying XUV pulses, a smaller focus size and therefore a higher precision could be achieved, as only the material in this ignited region is activated. At the same time, the overall efficiency can be improved, as NIR pulses with a much lower intensity compared to current methods could be used. In this way, novel nanolithography and nanosurgery applications may become possible in the future.
Ionization avalanching in clusters ignited by extreme-ultraviolet driven seed electrons
B. Schütte, M. Arbeiter, A. Mermillod-Blondin, M. J. J. Vrakking, A. Rouzée, T. Fennel.
Physical Review Letters 116, 033001 (2016), 19. Januar 2016, DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.116.033001
Dr. Bernd Schütte,
Division A: Attosecond Physics
12489 Berlin, Germany
Prof. Dr. Thomas Fennel
Theoretical Cluster Physics and Nanophotonics Group
Institute of Physics, University of Rostock
18059 Rostock, Germany
Ingrid Rieck | Universität Rostock
Creating switchable plasmons in plastics
10.12.2019 | Linköping University
Ultrafast stimulated emission microscopy of single nanocrystals in Science
10.12.2019 | ICFO-The Institute of Photonic Sciences
Graphene, a two-dimensional structure made of carbon, is a material with excellent mechanical, electronic and optical properties. However, it did not seem suitable for magnetic applications. Together with international partners, Empa researchers have now succeeded in synthesizing a unique nanographene predicted in the 1970s, which conclusively demonstrates that carbon in very specific forms has magnetic properties that could permit future spintronic applications. The results have just been published in the renowned journal Nature Nanotechnology.
Depending on the shape and orientation of their edges, graphene nanostructures (also known as nanographenes) can have very different properties – for example,...
Using a clever technique that causes unruly crystals of iron selenide to snap into alignment, Rice University physicists have drawn a detailed map that reveals...
University of Texas and MIT researchers create virtual UAVs that can predict vehicle health, enable autonomous decision-making
In the not too distant future, we can expect to see our skies filled with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) delivering packages, maybe even people, from location...
With ultracold chemistry, researchers get a first look at exactly what happens during a chemical reaction
The coldest chemical reaction in the known universe took place in what appears to be a chaotic mess of lasers. The appearance deceives: Deep within that...
Abnormal scarring is a serious threat resulting in non-healing chronic wounds or fibrosis. Scars form when fibroblasts, a type of cell of connective tissue, reach wounded skin and deposit plugs of extracellular matrix. Until today, the question about the exact anatomical origin of these fibroblasts has not been answered. In order to find potential ways of influencing the scarring process, the team of Dr. Yuval Rinkevich, Group Leader for Regenerative Biology at the Institute of Lung Biology and Disease at Helmholtz Zentrum München, aimed to finally find an answer. As it was already known that all scars derive from a fibroblast lineage expressing the Engrailed-1 gene - a lineage not only present in skin, but also in fascia - the researchers intentionally tried to understand whether or not fascia might be the origin of fibroblasts.
Fibroblasts kit - ready to heal wounds
03.12.2019 | Event News
15.11.2019 | Event News
15.11.2019 | Event News
10.12.2019 | Architecture and Construction
10.12.2019 | Information Technology
10.12.2019 | Life Sciences