A molecular conveyor belt by controlled delivery of single molecules into ultrashort laser pulses

Steffen Kahra, Gunther Leschhorn, Markus Kowalewski, Agustin Eduardo Schiffrin, Elisabeth Bothschafter, Werner Fuss, Regina de Vivie-Riedle, Ralph Ernstorfer, Ferenc Krausz, Reinhard Kienberger, Tobias Schatz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Trapping and laser cooling in atomic physics enables control of single particles and their dynamics at the quantum level in a background-free environment. Ultrashort intense laser pulses reveal the ultimate control of electromagnetic fields, enabling the imaging of matter, in principle down to a single molecule or virus resolved on atomic scales. However, current methods fall short in overlapping each target with a pulse of comparable size. We combine the two fields by demonstrating a deterministic molecular conveyor, formed of electric trapping potentials. We deliver individual diatomic ions at millikelvin temperatures and with submicrometre positioning into few-femtosecond ultraviolet laser pulses. We initiate and probe the molecule s femtosecond dynamics and detect it and its response with 100 efficiency. This experiment might become key for investigations of individual molecules, such as structural determinations using few-femtosecond X-ray lasers. Our scheme may overlap each single molecule with a pulse, focused to (sub)micrometre size, providing the required number of photons at the repetition rate of the laser
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)238 - 242
Number of pages5
JournalNature Physics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

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