Orbital angular momentum carried by an optical field can be imprinted onto a propagating electron wave

Photons have fixed spin and unbounded orbital angular momentum (OAM). While the former is manifested in the polarization of light, the latter corresponds to the spatial phase distribution of its wavefront. The distinctive way in which the photon spin dictates the electron motion upon light–matter interaction is the basis for numerous well-established spectroscopies. By contrast, imprinting OAM on a matter wave, specifically on a propagating electron, is generally considered very challenging and the anticipated effect undetectable.

We carried out an experiment at the LDM beam line at the FERMI free-electron laser, with the aim of inducing an OAM-dependent dichroic photoelectric effect on photo-electrons emitted by a sample of He atoms. The experiment involved a large international collaboration and surprisingly confirmed that the spatial distribution of an optical field with vortex phase profile can be imprinted coherently on a photoelectron wave packet that recedes from an atom. Our results explore new aspects of light–matter interaction and point to qualitatively novel analytical tools, which can be used to study, for example, the electronic structure of intrinsic chiral organic molecules. The results have been published in Nature Photonics.

Read more on the Elettra website

Image: A VUV free-electron laser (violet) is used to ionize a sample of He atoms, and an infrared beam (red) to imprint orbital angular momentum on photo-emitted electrons. Credit: J. Wätzel (Halle university)

New interaction between light and matter discovered at BESSY II

A German-Chinese team led by Gisela Schütz from the MPI for Intelligent Systems has discovered a new interaction between light and matter at BESSY II.

They succeeded in creating nanometer-fine magnetic vortices in a magnetic layer. These are so-called skyrmions, and candidates for future information technologies.
Skyrmions are 100 nanometre small three-dimensional structures that occur in magnetic materials. They resemble small coils: atomic elementary magnets – so-called spins – which are arranged in closed vortex structures. Skyrmions are topologically protected, i.e. their shape is unchangeable, and are therefore considered energy-efficient data storage devices.

Soft x-rays at BESSY II

In a series of experiments on the MAXYMUS beamline of BESSY II, the researchers have now shown that a bundled soft X-ray beam with a diameter of less than 50 nanometres can generate a magnetic vortex of 100 nanometres. In order to make the skyrmions visible, the researchers use the MAXYMUS scanning transmission X-ray microscope. This is a high-resolution X-ray microscope, weighing 1.8 tons, located at BESSY II.

>Read more on the BESSY II at HZB website

Image: bundled soft X-ray beam with a diameter of less than 50 nanometers writes numerous magnetic vortices, which together form the term “MPI-IS”. Credit: Alejandro Posada, Felix Groß/MPI-IS

‘A day in the light’ Videos highlight how scientists use light in experiment

In recognition of the International Day of Light (@IDL2019) on May 16, the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) is highlighting how scientists use light in laboratory experiments. From nanolasers and X-ray beams to artificial photosynthesis and optical electronics, Berkeley Lab researchers tap into light’s many properties to drive a range of innovative R&D.
In the three videos displayed below, you will learn how light drives the science of Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source (ALS), a synchrotron that produces many forms of light beams. These light beams are customized to perform a variety of experimental techniques for dozens of simultaneous experiments conducted by researchers from across the nation and around the world.

> Read more on the Advanced Light Source at Berkley Lab website

Image: Shambhavi Pratap, ALS Doctoral Fellow in Residence and a Ph.D. student at the Technical University of Munich, discusses how she studies thin-film solar energy materials using X-rays at the ALS.
Credit: Marilyn Chung/Berkeley Lab