Wave function microscopy of quasibound atomic states

S. Cohen*, M. M. Harb, A. Ollagnier, F. Robicheaux, M. J.J. Vrakking, T. Barillot, F. Lépine, C. Bordas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


In the 1980s Demkov, Kondratovich, and Ostrovsky and Kondratovich and Ostrovsky proposed an experiment based on the projection of slow electrons emitted by a photoionized atom onto a position-sensitive detector. In the case of resonant excitation, they predicted that the spatial electron distribution on the detector should represent nothing else but a magnified image of the projection of a quasibound electronic state. By exciting lithium atoms in the presence of a static electric field, we present in this Letter the first experimental photoionization wave function microscopy images where signatures of quasibound states are evident. Characteristic resonant features, such as (i) the abrupt change of the number of wave function nodes across a resonance and (ii) the broadening of the outer ring of the image (associated with tunneling ionization), are observed and interpreted via wave packet propagation simulations and recently proposed resonance tunneling mechanisms. The electron spatial distribution measured by our microscope is a direct macroscopic image of the projection of the microscopic squared modulus of the electron wave that is quasibound to the atom and constitutes the first experimental realization of the experiment proposed 30 years ago.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number183001
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number18
StatePublished - May 3 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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