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Controlling a twist of light in time could lead to ultra-fast nanomagnetism applications

The interaction of light, or photons, with matter underlies applications from imaging devices to fibre optic transmission of data to quantum computers. Twisted light (light exhibiting orbital angular momentum) interacts in unique ways with matter, and harnessing its power could open the door to novel experiments and applications resulting from the production of mechanical motion in nanoscale matter with photons.

Recently, scientists demonstrated the ability to vary the twist in time with a light pulse created using high-frequency harmonics. With the EU-funded ATTOSTRUCTURA project, these scientists are developing the theoretical and experimental foundations for ultra-fast magnetism exploiting ultra-short X-rays with angular momenta. It could be a path to pioneering high-rate magnetic recording.

Project Progress

March 2020 August 2025

Grant Agreement: 851201

Start date: March 2020

End date: August 2025

Host institution: Universidad de Salamanca

Programme: H2020-EU.1.1. – EXCELLENT SCIENCE – European Research Council (ERC)

Topic: ERC-2019-STG – ERC Starting Grant

Funding Scheme: ERC-STG – Starting Grant

Proyect scope

Light is one of today’s most powerful tools for exploring nature at the frontier of the human knowledge. The rapid development of laser technology allow us today to generate ultrashort pulses of coherent structured light: light fields with custom spatial and temporal properties, such as intensity, phase and angular momentum. The later one represents one of the most interesting light properties nowadays, as topological light beams carrying angular momentum interact with matter differently, introducing mechanical motion to micro and nano-structures, and affecting fundamental excitation rules.

High-order harmonic generation (HHG) stands as a unique mechanism to provide coherent flashes of light with outstanding properties: its radiation spectrum expands from the vacuum ultraviolet to the soft x-rays; it can be synthesized in pulses as short as several attoseconds (10-18 seconds): and it can be structured in its angular momentum properties.

This proposal represents a timely opportunity to explore the ground-breaking opportunities offered by attosecond structured x-ray sources. It conveys computing light-matter interaction in extreme conditions, which requires an extraordinary effort in the elaboration of new theoretical tools to design, propose and guide future experiments at the frontier of ultrafast science. We shall pioneer the new scenario of angular momenta in structured ultrashort x-rays –the most complex coherent pulses to date–. It is not difficult to envision a new era in ultrafast nanotechnology that makes use of these x-ray sources. In particular we shall pioneer their application to nanoscience and ultrafast magnetism.

We aim to establish the grounding principles of attomagnetism, taking advantage of the unique opportunity offered by structured light pulses to induce pure attosecond magnetic fields, which could set the precedents of high-rate magnetic recording through ultrafast magnetization reversal.

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