Background-Free Measurement of Ring Currents by Symmetry-Breaking High-Harmonic Spectroscopy

Ofer Neufeld*, Oren Cohen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


We propose and explore an all-optical technique for ultrafast characterization of electronic ring currents in atoms and molecules, based on high-harmonic generation (HHG). In our approach, a medium is irradiated by an intense reflection-symmetric laser pulse that leads to HHG, where the polarization of the emitted harmonics is strictly linear if the medium is reflection invariant (e.g., randomly oriented atomic or molecular media). The presence of a ring current in the medium breaks this symmetry, causing the emission of elliptically polarized harmonics, where the harmonics' polarization directly maps the ring current, and the signal is background-free. Scanning the delay between the current excitation and the HHG driving pulse provides an attosecond time-resolved signal for the multielectron dynamics in the excited current (including electron-electron interactions). We analyze the responsible physical mechanism and derive the analytic dependence of the HHG emission on the ring current. The method is numerically demonstrated using quantum models for neon and benzene, as well as through ab initio calculations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103202
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number10
StatePublished - 6 Sep 2019
Externally publishedYes


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