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Ultrafast free electron quantum optics

Maria Gabriel Becker, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Free electron quantum optics is an emerging sub-field of physics that uses laser light, often in combination with nano-structures, to manipulate electrons in free space. Integration of femtosecond lasers into this technology is facilitating the move of free electron quantum optics into the ultrafast regime. A vision for this technology is ultrahigh temporal resolution in free electron time-of-flight experiments. Such a system would make fundamental physics studies involving small forces accessible that are not feasible with current technology. Realization of this vision will require an ultrafast source and an ultrafast detection scheme. Tungsten nano-tip sources capable of generating sub-100 fs electron pulses are already in use in our lab. Elsewhere, this type of source has been reported to emit on a sub-cycle timescale. Following up on a proposed scheme for observing sub-cycle emission, a two-color interferometer has been built and pump-probe electron emission measurements have been performed. Other efforts to develop ultrafast sources have involved implementing additional control parameters. GaAs has been investigated as a possible ultrafast source of spin-polarized electrons, and tungsten nano-tips have been modified with an ion beam to create a double tip source. Spin control and transverse separation control are expected to make studies of Pauli degeneracy pressure possible. The temporal resolution of current electronic particle detectors is ~1 ns. Schemes involving the interaction of laser pulses with nanostructures could improve this resolution by several orders of magnitude. As a first step towards a femtosecond electron switch, the temporal resolution of a nano-fabricated plasmonic antenna has been measured in a femtosecond pump-probe experiment. The possibility of an ultrafast diffraction switch has also been analyzed for nonrelativistic and relativistic electrons. In an application of a free electron time-of-flight system, the prediction of approximately dispersionless forces in Aharonov-Bohm-type experiments has been tested. The system’s sensitivity to small forces was established by demonstrating Faraday’s law for free electrons. As an application of an ultrahigh temporal resolution time-of-flight system, an experiment capable of demonstrating coupling between gravity and electromagnetism, manifested as the distorted Coulomb field of a charge distribution in a gravitational field, is proposed with an accompanying theoretical analysis.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Becker, Maria Gabriel, "Ultrafast free electron quantum optics" (2016). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI10139949.