Innsbruck Physics Lecture - Tue, 25 Oct. 2016, 17:15 lecture hall A

Paul Corkum, University of Ottawa and National Research Council of Canada


Paul Corkum (born 1943) studied physics at Acadia University in Nova Scotia (Canada). As a graduate student he moved to Lehigh University, Pennsylvania (USA) where he received his PhD in 1972 in theoretical physics. In 1973 Paul Corkum moved to the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada in Ottawa and changed to experimental physics. In 1990 he founded the femtosecond group at the Steacie Institute for Molecular Science of the NRC. Since 2008 he holds a Canada Research Chair for Attoseconds Photonics at the University of Ottawa and is director of a joint laboratory at the University of Ottawa and the National Research Council.

Paul Corkum works in the field of ultrafast and intense light-matter interactions. His ground-breaking work on the re-collision of electron wavepackets following atomic ionisation in intense laser fields has explained the generation of high harmonics by ultrafast pulses. This has paved the way for ultrafast x-ray science and the development of attosecond physics.

Probing quantum systems from the inside – on the attosecond time scale


Attosecond pulses are generated by electrons that are extracted from a quantum system by tunneling in an intense light pulse and travel through the continuum.  Portions of each electron wave packet are forced to re-collide with its parent ion by the oscillating force of the time dependent electric field.   Upon re-collision, the electron and ion can re-combine, emitting VUV or soft X-ray radiation.  

Since nonlinear optics underlies every ultrafast pulse that we create, every ultrafast measurements that we perform and many other measurements in physics, a new nonlinear process is bound to be important.  If we ensure that the intense driving pulse only permits re-collision within a fraction of a light period, in rare gas atoms re-collision generates the world’s shortest pulses (currently ~ 65 x 10-18 sec).  If we use a mid-infrared driver, it can also generates coherent soft X-ray radiation by combining 1000s of IR photons into one with photon energy > 1 keV.  But the re-collision electron, with wavelength in the 3-0.3 Angstrom range, is also a probe of structure.  In semiconductors we can measure the band structure of the material in which the process occurs.  Band structure information is encoded in the emitted light.  Determining band structure in this way is very much like inverse photoelectron spectroscopy.  Using small molecules, the emitted spectrum contains the information needed to image the structure of the wave function of the orbital (or orbitals) from which the re-collision electron was taken.  As time permits, the talk will cover these issues.

Previous lectures

Alain Aspect, Institut d'Optique Graduate School, Palaiseau, France >>
(10 November 2015)

Michael Kramer - Nearly 100 years after General Relativity: Was Einstein right? >>
(04 November 2014)

Immanuel Bloch - Controlling and Exploring Quantum Matter at the Single Atom Level >>
(22 October 2013)

Wim Ubachs - Search for a variation of fundamental constants >>
(13 November 2012)

Reinhard Genzel - Massive Black Holes and Galaxies >>
(4 October 2011)