Tracing the phase of focused broadband laser pulses

Dominik Hoff, Michael Krueger, Lothar Maisenbacher, A. M. Sayler, Gerhard G. Paulus, Peter Hommelhoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Precise knowledge of the behaviour of the phase of light in a focused beam is fundamental to understanding and controlling laser-driven processes. More than a hundred years ago, an axial phase anomaly for focused monochromatic light beams was discovered and is now commonly known as the Gouy phase(1-4). Recent theoretical work has brought into question the validity of applying this monochromatic phase formulation to the broadband pulses becoming ubiquitous today(5,6). Based on electron backscattering at sharp nanometre-scale metal tips, a method is available to measure light fields with sub-wavelength spatial resolution and sub-optical-cycle time resolution(7-9). Here we report such a direct, three-dimensional measurement of the spatial dependence of the optical phase of a focused, 4-fs, near-infrared pulsed laser beam. The observed optical phase deviates substantially from the monochromatic Gouy phase-exhibiting a much more complex spatial dependence, both along the propagation axis and in the radial direction. In our measurements, these significant deviations are the rule and not the exception for focused, broadband laser pulses. Therefore, we expect wide ramifications for all broadband laser-matter interactions, such as in high-harmonic and attosecond pulse generation, femtochemistry(10), ophthalmological optical coherence tomography(11,12) and light-wave electronics(13).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)947-+
Number of pages6
JournalNature Physics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2017


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