New Helmholtz Young Investigator Group on Laser-Matter Interactions

Research will establish time-resolved spectroscopy of photo-induced electron dynamics

CFEL researcher Andrea Trabattoni from DESY has successfully applied for a Helmholtz Young Investigator Group on laser-matter interaction. The physicist will receive an annual grant of 300 000 Euros for six years, half of which will be funded by the Helmholtz Association and half by DESY. In CFELs attophysics group of DESY Leading Scientist Francesca Calegari, Trabattoni and his team will investigate the photo-induced dynamics of electrons during processes in the atomic nucleus.

DESY scientist Andrea Trabattoni. Credit: DESY

Laser-matter interactions offer a plethora of possibilities to understand and manipulate matter with help of light. One of the ultimate aims is to include light-nucleus interactions in these studies and to use lasers to interact directly with the nucleus. The surrounding electrons play a crucial role in many light-induced nuclear transitions. For example, 7-Beryllium, that is an indicator of solar activity, decays by capturing an electron into the nucleus. Other isotopes decay by exciting electronic states or inducing ionization. Laser light can be used to initiate, observe in real time, and potentially control these electro-nucleus energy transfers.

The new Helmholtz Young Investigator Group will establish time-resolved spectroscopy of photo-induced electron dynamics in the study of nuclear transitions. This mission will be ultimately accomplished by employing cutting-edge free-electron lasers to trigger and control electron motions associated with nuclear excitations. A deep understanding of such processes is likely to have a huge impact on a large range of disciplines. For example, in future it might be possible to employ laser-induced electron dynamics to accelerate the production of medical isotopes or to affect the natural decay of radioactive nuclei, with immense benefit for medical and environmental sciences.