Exploring Ultrafast Quantum Dynamics of Electrons by Attosecond Transient Absorption
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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EmbargoRelease after 15-May-2018
AbstractQuantum mechanical motion of electrons in atoms and molecules is at the heart of many photophysical and photochemical processes. As the natural timescale of electron dynamics is in the range of femtoseconds or shorter, ultrashort pulses are required to study such phenomena. The ultrashort pulse light-matter interaction at high intensity regime can however dramatically alter the atomic and molecular structures. Our current understanding of such transient electronic modification is far from complete, especially when complicated light-induced couplings are involved. In this dissertation, we investigated how a femtosecond strong-field pulse can control or modify the evolution of atomic or molecular polarization, representing electric dipole excitation in various systems. Extreme ultraviolet (XUV) attosecond pulse trains are used to coherently prepare superposition of excited states in various atomic and molecular systems. A subsequent phase-locked infrared (IR) femtosecond pulse is applied to perturb the dipoles, and transient changes in the transmitted XUV spectra are measured. This scheme is termed as XUV attosecond transient absorption spectroscopy. In the first study, we applied this technique to study the modification of Rydberg states in dilute helium gas. We observed several transient changes to the atomic structure, including the ac Stark shift, laser-induced quantum phase, laser-induced continuum structure, and quantum path interference. When the experiments were extended to the study of a dense helium gas sample, new spectral features in the absorption spectra emerged which cannot be explained by linear optical response models. We found that these absorption features arise from the interplay between the XUV resonant pulse propagation and the IR-imposed phase shift. A unified physical model was also developed to account for various scenarios. Extending our work to argon atoms, we studied how an external infrared field can be used to impulsively control different photo-excitation pathways and the transient absorption lineshape of an otherwise isolated autoionizing state. It is found that by controlling the field polarization of the IR pulse, we can modify the transient absorption line shape from Fano-like to Lorentzian-like profiles. Unlike atoms, in our study of autoionizing states of the oxygen molecule, we observed both positive and negative optical density changes for states with different electronic symmetries. The predictions of two distinct and simplified dipole perturbation models were compared against both the experimental results and a full theoretical calculation in order to understand the origin of the sign of absorption change. We relate this symmetry-dependent sign change to the Fano parameters of static photoabsorption. The same approach was applied to study molecular nitrogen, in which we observed the decay dynamics of IR perturbed doubly-excited Rydberg states with many vibrational progressions. In addition, we also conducted experiments to investigate Rydberg state dynamics of other molecular systems such as carbon dioxide. In summary, we experimentally explored the ephemeral light-induced phenomena associated with excited states of atoms and molecules. These studies provide real-time information on ultrafast electronic processes and provide strategies for direct time-domain control of the light-matter interaction.
Degree ProgramGraduate College