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Wednesday, 19. September 2018 09:41 Age: 4 yrs

Absolute timing of the photoelectric effect

Category: Scientific Highlights

Published in Nature

Photoemission spectroscopy is central to understanding the inner workings of condensed matter, from simple metals and semiconductors to complex materials such as Mott insulators and superconductors1. Most state-of-the-art knowledge about such solids stems from spectroscopic investigations, and use of subfemtosecond light pulses can provide a time-domain perspective. For example, attosecond (10−18 seconds) metrology allows electron wave packet creation, transport and scattering to be followed on atomic length scales and on attosecond timescales. However, previous studies could not disclose the duration of these processes, because the arrival time of the photons was not known with attosecond precision. Here we show that this main source of ambiguity can be overcome by introducing the atomic chronoscope method, which references all measured timings to the moment of light-pulse arrival and therefore provides absolute timing of the processes under scrutiny. Our proof-of-principle experiment reveals that photoemission from the tungsten conduction band can proceed faster than previously anticipated. By contrast, the duration of electron emanation from core states is correctly described by semiclassical modelling. These findings highlight the necessity of treating the origin, initial excitation and transport of electrons in advanced modelling of the attosecond response of solids, and our absolute data provide a benchmark. Starting from a robustly characterized surface, we then extend attosecond spectroscopy towards isolating the emission properties of atomic adsorbates on surfaces and demonstrate that these act as photoemitters with instantaneous response. We also find that the tungsten core-electron timing remains unchanged by the adsorption of less than one monolayer of dielectric atoms, providing a starting point for the exploration of excitation and charge migration in technologically and biologically relevant adsorbate systems.

Project Part: P05 Embedded cluster approach and non-adiabatic processes in physics and chemistry

Original publication: M. Ossiander, J. Riemensberger, S. Neppl, M. Mittermair, M. Schäffer, A. Duensing, M.S. Wagner, R. Heider, M. Wurzer, M. Gerl, M. Schnitzenbaumer, J. V. Barth, F. Libisch, C. Lemell, J. Burgdörfer, P. Feulner, & R. Kienberger

DOI 10.1038/S41586-018-0503-6



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