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Quantum-coherent light-electron interaction in an SEM
preprintposted on 2023-01-10, 02:21 authored by Roy Shiloh, Tomas Chlouba, Peter Hommelhoff
The last two decades experimentally affirmed the quantum nature of free electron wavepackets by the rapid development of transmission electron microscopes into ultrafast, quantum-coherent systems. In particular, ultrafast electron pulses can be generated and timed to interact with optical near-fields, yielding coherent exchange of the quantized photon energy between the relativistic electron wavepacket and the light field. So far, all experiments have been restricted to the physically-confining bounds of transmission electron microscopes, with their small, millimeter-sized sample chambers. In this work, we show the quantum coherent coupling between electrons and light in a scanning electron microscope, at unprecedentedly low electron energies down to 10.4 keV, so with sub-relativistic electrons. Scanning electron microscopes not only afford the yet-unexplored electron energies from ~0.5 to 30 keV providing optimum light-coupling efficiencies, but they also offer spacious and easily-configurable experimental chambers for extended and cascaded optical set-ups, potentially boasting thousands of photon-electron interaction zones. Our results unleashes the full potential of quantum experiments including electron wavepacket shaping and quantum computing with multiple arithmetic operations and will allow imaging with low-energy electrons and attosecond time resolution.