Background and Motivation
The endeavour to explore the microcosm in ever smaller dimensions is never ending.
Structure and dynamics are most directly accessed in space and time, by means
of microscopy and chronoscopy. Individual atoms can now be resolved and made
perceivable in molecules and condensed matter by state-of-the-art microscopes
when they are at rest. Fundamental processes of chemistry, biology and materials
science are triggered or mediated by the motion of electrons inside or between atoms.
Electronic motion forms the basis for a wide range of modern technologies, including
micro- and nano-electronics, photovoltaics, laser machining, bioinformatics, molecular
biology, as well as medical diagnostics and theraphies. The atomic-scale motion of
electrons typically unfolds within tens to thousands of attoseconds (1 attosecond [as] = 10-18 s). Their motion on the length scale of internuclear distances can be resolved and tracked with femtosecond laser techniques. However, the electronic structure and processes at a sub-atomic scale remained largely inaccessible in space and time until recently.
Recent breakthroughs in laser science are now opening the door to watching and controlling these hitherto inaccessible microscopic dynamics. They herald a new age of experimental physics: attosecond science provides – for the first time – direct access to any microscopic motion occurring outside the atomic core.
Strong light fields with controlled waveform play a pivotal role in these emerging technical capabilities. The controlled electric field of laser light permits control of microscopic electric currents on the atomic scale just as microwave fields permit control of currents on nanometer-scale semiconductor chips. By analogy to microwave electronics, the new technology has been referred to as lightwave electronics. Lightwave electronics provides – for the first time – real-time access to the intra- and inter-atomic motion of electrons. Because this access is provided on an attosecond time scale and the controlled attosecond force of light waves offers the only means of control at this speed, lightwave electronics is synonymous with attosecond technology.
Concerted research efforts of leading laboratories will largely expedite progress towards lightwave electronics becoming an established, mature technology. It will be of pivotal importance for advancing existing and developing new technologies relying on dynamic changes of the electronic structure or charge transport on the atomic scale.
Ferenc Krausz at the Max-Planck-Institute (MPI) of Quantum Optics (MPQ), Garching at Munich, Joachim Ullrich at the MPI for Nuclear Physics (MPI-NP), Heidelberg, Andrea Cavalleri affiliated with the Centre of Free Electron Laser Science (CFEL), Hamburg, Jan Michael Rost at the MPI for the Physics of Complex Systems (MPI-PCS), Dresden, and Martin Wolf at the Fritz-Haber-Institute (FHI), Berlin, of Max Planck Societ, and Dong-Eon Kim at POSTECH, Pohang, Korea, Ya Cheng at Shanghai Institute of Optics and Fine Mechanics (SIOM), Shanghai, China, Jiro Itatani at the ISSP, University of Tokyo, Japan, Igor Litvinyuk at the Australian Attosecond Science Facility, Griffith University (AASF-GU), Brisbane, Australia, and Zhiyi Wei at the CAS Institute of Physics (CAS-IP), Beijing, China have proposed the establishment of the Max Planck Centre for Attosecond Science (MPC-AS) to form a Pacific Rim network in attosecond science and technology.
The Max Planck Centre for Attosecond science (MPC-AS) is aimed at creating a scientific platform between the above partners from Australia, China, Japan, Korea, and the Max Planck Society of Germany in attosecond science and technology for
- extending the capability of controlling and probing ultrafast processes of matter by light from the femtosecond to the attosecond regime,
- exploiting the newly-emerging technical capability of steering electronic motion with controlled light waves to advancing existing and creating new technologies, and
- proliferating this new and dynamically expanding area of laser science in the Pacific Rim.
This platform will allow all participating research institutions to bring their know-how, experience and expertise in the relevant fields together to the mutual benefit of all participants. The combination of complementary methods and know-how shall create additional value for the cooperating parties. The main mission of MPC-AS is to coordinate and organize research collaborations and foster the exchange of know-how and research personnel among the participating partners for the advancement of attosecond science and improving the training and education of young researchers.
The Max Planck Centre will benefit the advancement of a new, most promising sub-field of one of the key areas of
XXI-century science and technology (photonics and lasers science): attosecond science and technology in several ways.
First, the concerted research actions of leading research groups under its umbrella will create a great deal of visibility for
this newly emerging discipline in a region that develops most dynamically world wide. The visibility afforded by the centre
to the planned joint research activities will attract the attention of outstanding students from leading universities of the
Pacific Rim, to the benefit of all participating partners, in the Pacific Rim and Germany likewise. This visibility will also
attract the attention of national funding agencies, permitting the partners to jointly raise funding for the research projects
they pursue in cooperation. Hence the centre will facilitate attracting outstanding students and raising funding for most
ambitious and costly research projects. Moreover, the envisaged, highly challenging research projects will greatly benefit
from the combination of complementary methods and know-how to be contributed by the different partners, allowing the
enterprise to pursue uniquely challenging.