Heading Towards a Tsunami of Light

Ultra-intense light pulses, consisting of a single wave period, can be described as a tsunami of light. Researchers from Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, propose a theoretical setup for creating the much-anticipated strong waves. (Source: I. Thiele & Y. Strandqvist)

Researchers at Chalmers Univer­sity of Tech­nology and the Univer­sity of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study inter­actions between matter and light in a unique way. “This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle – it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different,” says Illia Thiele, a theo­retical physicist at Chalmers University of Tech­nology.

Together with Evangelos Siminos at the Univer­sity of Gothenburg, and Tünde Fülöp, Professor of Physics at Chalmers, Illia Thiele now presents a theoretical method for creating the fastest possible single wave motion. This kind of radiation has never yet been observed in the universe or even the lab. The radiation source is interesting for under­standing the properties of different materials. Since it offers an ultra-fast switching of light matter inter­actions, it can be useful in material science, or sensor related research, for example. Moreover, it can be used as a driver for other types of radiation, and to push the limits of how short a light pulse could be.

“An ultra-intense pulse is like a great tsunami of light. The wave can pull an electron out of an atom, acce­lerating it to almost the speed of light, creating exotic quantum states. This is the fastest and strongest switch possible, and it paves the way for advances in fundamental research,” says Illia Thiele. The new pulses can be used to probe and control matter in unique ways. While other light pulses, with multiple wave periods, impose changes in the material properties gradually, pulses with a single strong wave period cause sudden and unexpected reactions.

Researchers worldwide have tried to create this source of radiation, since it is of high interest for the scientific commu­nities within physics and material science. “Now, we hope to be able to bring our theo­retical setup to the lab. Our method could help close the existing gaps in the scientific landscape of light sources,” says Tünde Fülöp. (Source: Chalmers U.)

Reference: I. Thiele et al.: Electron Beam Driven Generation of Frequency-Tunable Isolated Relativistic Subcycle Pulses, Phys. Rev. Lett. 122, 104803 (2019); DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.122.104803

Link: Plasma Theory, Dept. of Physics, Chalmers University of Technology, Göteborg, Sweden

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