Laser-driven coherent extreme-ultraviolet (XUV) sources provide pulses lasting a few hundred attoseconds(1,2), enabling real-time access to dynamic changes of the electronic structure of matter(3,4), the fastest processes outside the atomic nucleus. These pulses, however, are typically rather weak. Exploiting the ultrahigh brilliance of accelerator-based XUV sources(5) and the unique time structure of their laser-based counterparts would open intriguing opportunities in ultrafast X-ray and high-field science, extending powerful nonlinear optical and pump-probe techniques towards X-ray frequencies, and paving the way towards unequalled radiation intensities. Relativistic laser-plasma interactions have been identified as a promising approach to achieve this goal(6-13). Recent experiments confirmed that relativistically driven overdense plasmas are able to convert infrared laser light into harmonic XUV radiation with unparalleled efficiency, and demonstrated the scalability of the generation technique towards hard X-rays(14-19). Here we show that the phases of the XUV harmonics emanating from the interaction processes are synchronized, and therefore enable attosecond temporal bunching. Along with the previous findings concerning energy conversion and recent advances in high-power laser technology, our experiment demonstrates the feasibility of confining unprecedented amounts of light energy to within less than one femtosecond.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)