Molecular orbital imprint in laser-driven electron recollision

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Science Advances  04 May 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 5, eaap8148
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aap8148

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Electrons released by strong-field ionization from atoms and molecules or in solids can be accelerated in the oscillating laser field and driven back to their ion core. The ensuing interaction, phase-locked to the optical cycle, initiates the central processes underlying attosecond science. A common assumption assigns a single, well-defined return direction to the recolliding electron. We study laser-induced electron rescattering associated with two different ionization continua in the same, spatially aligned, polyatomic molecule. We show by experiment and theory that the electron return probability is molecular frame–dependent and carries structural information on the ionized orbital. The returning wave packet structure has to be accounted for in analyzing strong-field spectroscopy experiments that critically depend on the interaction of the laser-driven continuum electron, such as laser-induced electron diffraction.

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