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Strong inelastic scattering of slow electrons by optical near fields of small nanostructures

Germann Hergert, Andreas Wöste, ,

Abstract: The interaction of swift, free-space electrons with confined optical near fields has recently sparked much interest. It enables a new type of photon-induced near-field electron microscopy, mapping local optical near fields around nanoparticles with exquisite spatial and spectral resolution and lies at the heart of quantum state manipulation and attosecond pulse shaping of free electrons. The corresponding interaction of optical near fields with slow electrons has achieved much less attention, even though the lower electron velocity may enhance electron-near-field coupling for small nanoparticles. A first-principle theoretical study of such interactions has been reported very recently [N. Talebi, Phys. Rev. Lett. 125, 080401 (2020)]. Building up on this work, we investigate, both analytically and numerically, the inelastic scattering of slow electrons by near fields of small nanostructures. For weak fields, this results in distinct angular diffraction patterns that represent, to first order, the Fourier transform of the transverse variation of the scalar near-field potential along the direction perpendicular to the electron propagation. For stronger fields, scattering by the near-field component along the electron trajectory results in a break-up of the energy spectrum into multiple photon orders. Their angular diffraction patterns are given by integer powers of the Fourier transform of the transverse potential variation and are shifting in phase with photon order. Our analytical model offers an efficient approach for studying the effects of electron kinetic energy, near field shape and strength on the diffraction and thus may facilitate the experimental observation of these phenomena by, e.g., ultrafast low-energy point-projection microscopy or related techniques. This could provide simultaneous access to different vectorial components of the optical near fields of small nanoparticles.
Keywords: photon / small nanostructures / inelastic scattering / small nanoparticles / scattering of slow / Building / model / optical

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