chapter  1

Theoretical Atto-nano Physics

WithM. F. Ciappina, M. Lewenstein

TWO emerging areas of research, attosecond and nanoscale physics, have recently started to merge. Attosecond physics deals with phenomena occurring when ultrashort laser pulses, with duration on the femtosecond and sub-femtosecond timescales, interact with atoms, molecules or solids. The laser-induced electron dynamics occurs natively on a timescale down to a few hundred or even tens of attoseconds (1 attosecond = 1 as = 10 –18 s), which is of the order of the optical field cycle. For comparison, the revolution of an electron on a 1s orbital of a hydrogen atom is ~152 as. On the other hand, the second topic involves the manipulation and engineering of mesoscopic systems, such as solids, metals and dielectrics, with nanometric precision. Although nano-engineering is a vast and well-established research field on its own, the combination with intense laser physics is relatively recent.