For the first time, scientists were able to observe and record in detail the phenomenon of this direct elastic recoil in a collective nanocomposite. The researchers used polarized light for their experiments. In polarized light, the light waves oscillate only along one axis and not in all directions, as in normal light. "Intense radiation pulses can alter or destroy the nanoparticles. Therefore, we prepared isolated nanoparticles in one beam so that fresh nanoparticles were used for each laser pulse. This is crucial for the observation of high-energy electrons, "explains Prof. Eckart Rühl of the Freie Universität Berlin.
The accelerated electrons left the atoms in different directions and with different energies. These trajectories recorded the scientists in a three-dimensional image, with which they determined the energies and the directions of emission of the electrons. "The electrons are accelerated not only by the laser-induced near field, which itself is already significantly stronger than the laser field, but also by interactions with other electrons, which are released from the nanoparticle," describes Prof. Matthias Kling from the Max Planck Institute for Quantum optics in Garching the experiment. Finally, the positive charge of the nanoparticle surface also plays a role. Since all contributions add up, the energy of the electrons can be very high. "The process is complex, but it shows that there is still a lot to discover in the interaction of nanoparticles with strong laser fields," adds Kling.
The movements of electrons can also produce pulses of extreme ultraviolet light, namely whenever the electrons strike the surface again, but instead of being ricocheted, absorbed and emitting light. Extreme ultraviolet light is especially interesting for biological and medical research.
"According to our findings, the recombination of the electrons on the nanoparticles can reach energies of the emitted photons that are up to seven times the limit that was previously observed for individual atoms," explains Prof. Thomas Fennel from the University of Rostock. The proof of the collective acceleration of the electrons with the nanoparticles offers great potential. "This results in promising new applications in future, light-controlled, ultra-fast electronics, which could work up to a million times faster than conventional electronics," Matthias Kling is convinced.