Research ArticlePHYSICS

Ultrafast electron diffraction from nanophotonic waveforms via dynamical Aharonov-Bohm phases

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Science Advances  20 Nov 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 47, eabc8804
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abc8804


Electron interferometry via phase-contrast microscopy, holography, or picodiffraction can provide a direct visualization of the static electric and magnetic fields inside or around a material at subatomic precision, but understanding the electromagnetic origin of light-matter interaction requires time resolution as well. Here, we demonstrate that pump-probe electron diffraction with all-optically compressed electron pulses can capture dynamic electromagnetic potentials in a nanophotonic material with sub-light-cycle time resolution via centrosymmetry-violating Bragg spot dynamics. The origin of this effect is a sizable quantum mechanical phase shift that the electron de Broglie wave obtains from the oscillating electromagnetic potentials within less than 1 fs. Coherent electron imaging and scattering can therefore reveal the electromagnetic foundations of light-matter interaction on the level of the cycles of light.

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