Subfemtosecond light pulses can be obtained by superposing several high harmonics of an intense laser pulse. Provided that the harmonics are emitted simultaneously, increasing their number should result in shorter pulses. However, we found that the high harmonics were not synchronized on an attosecond time scale, thus setting a lower limit to the achievable x-ray pulse duration. We showed that the synchronization could be improved considerably by controlling the underlying ultrafast electron dynamics, to provide pulses of 130 attoseconds in duration. We discuss the possibility of achieving even shorter pulses, which would allow us to track fast electron processes in matter.


Mairesse, Y., de Bohan, A., Frasinski, L. J., Merdji, H., Ciubotariu-Dinu, L., Monchicourt, P., … Salières, P. (2003). Attosecond synchronization of high-harmonic soft x-rays. Science, 302, 1540–1543.