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Gliserin, A.; Walbran, M.; Krausz, Ferenc ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6525-9449 and Baum, P. (2015): Sub-phonon-period compression of electron pulses for atomic diffraction. In: Nature Communications, Vol. 6, 8723 [PDF, 828kB]


Visualizing the rearrangement of atoms in a wide range of molecular and condensed-matter systems requires resolving picometre displacements on a 10-fs timescale, which is achievable using pump-probe diffraction, given short enough pulses. Here we demonstrate the compression of single-electron pulses with a de Broglie wavelength of 0.08 angstrom to a full-width at half-maximum duration of 28 fs or equivalently 12-fs root-mean square, substantially shorter than most phonon periods and molecular normal modes. Atomic resolution diffraction from a complex organic molecule is obtained with good signal-to-noise ratio within a data acquisition period of minutes. The electron-laser timing is found to be stable within 5 fs (s.d.) over several hours, allowing pump-probe diffraction at repetitive excitation. These measurements show the feasibility of laser-pump/electron-probe scans that can resolve the fastest atomic motions relevant in reversible condensed-matter transformations and organic chemistry.

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