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Research Area B.3

Lightwave electronics

Controlling electric currents in isolated atoms with controlled light fields has led to the birth of attosecond pulses. The same control in nano-circuits may revolutionise modern electronics. Our research on light-wave (nano-)electronics aims at pushing the frontiers of electronics from multi-gigahertz to multi-hundred-terahertz/sub-petahertz frequencies. If successfully accomplished, this development will herald the potential scalability of electron-based information technologies to lightwave frequencies surpassing the speed of current computation and commuication technology by 4-5 orders of magnitude. A key to demonstrating this enormous potential is to understand and control collective electron dynamics in nanostructured materials on few-femtosecond to sub-femtosecond time scales and monitor this control with resolutions reaching the Angstrom scale.

Experimentally, our pivotal tools will be synthesised few-cycle/sub-cycle light waveforms composed of frequencies spanning all the way from the mid-infrared (MIR) through visible (VIS) to the ultraviolet (UV) permitting light waveform sculpting with attosecond precision. These engineered light fields will be applied in studies with ultrahigh spatial and temporal resolution on homogeneous as well as hybrid nanostructured systems composed of metal, semiconductor and dielectric materials where light-field control of the collective elextron motion will result in electronic currents, photoelectron emission, photon radiation and variation of the optical properties of the solid-state system. 

Theoretically, the excitation, transport and scattering of charge carriers present challenging problems since many conventional approximations lose their validity on the attosecond time scale. We will advance quantum-kinetic and correlated-wave-packet methods to develop the theoretical foundations of lightwave nano-electronics.

Main objectives for 2012-2017:

a) Extension of light field synthesis into the deep and vacuum ultraviolet for achieving true attosecond resolution in sculpting the waveform of light

b) Demonstration of light-field control of electric current in nanostructured solid-state devices and through single organic molecules

c) Exploration of the feasibility of light-field-induced ultrafast phase transitions in nanofilms ? route to switching the conductivity and electric current at petahertz frequencies

d) Controlling and monitoring of the propagation of surface plasmon polaritons and the evolution of Fermi surfaces on a nanometer spatial and sub-femtosecond temporal scale

e) Exploration of light-field control of electron emission from nanotips utilising adiabatic compression of nanolocalised plasmonic fields

f) Visualisation of nano-scale to atomic-scale charge dynamics by femtosecond electron diffraction and with (single-atom) tips

g) Advancing quantum-kinetic methods for modelling few- and sub-femtosecond dynamics of charge carriers in solids exposed to controlled light fields