Nature physics | 2019
Vanishing Carrier-Envelope-Phase-Sensitive Response in Optical-Field Photoemission from Plasmonic Nanoantennas
At the surfaces of nanostructures, enhanced electric fields can drive optical-field photoemission and thereby generate and control electrical currents at frequencies exceeding 100\u2009THz (refs. 1–11). A hallmark of such optical-field photoemission is the sensitivity of the total emitted current to the carrier-envelope phase (CEP)1–3,7,11–17. Here, we examine CEP-sensitive photoemission from plasmonic gold nanoantennas excited with few-cycle optical pulses. At a critical pulse energy, which we call a vanishing point, we observe a pronounced dip in the magnitude of the CEP-sensitive photocurrent accompanied by a sudden shift of π radians in the photocurrent phase. Analysis shows that this vanishing behaviour arises due to competition between sub-optical-cycle electron emission events from neighbouring optical half-cycles and that both the dip and phase shift are highly sensitive to the precise shape of the driving optical waveform at the surface of the emitter. As the mechanisms underlying the dip and phase shift are a general consequence of nonlinear, field-driven photoemission, they may be used to probe sub-optical-cycle emission processes from solid-state emitters, atoms and molecules. Improved understanding of these CEP-sensitive photocurrent features will be critical to the development of optical-field-driven photocathodes for time-domain metrology and microscopy applications demanding attosecond temporal and nanometre spatial resolution.The carrier-envelope-phase-sensitive component of field-driven photoemission at the tip of a nanostructure shows a dip with a sudden phase shift. This is a consequence of its nonlinear dependence on the tunnel ionization and is not limited to solids.