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Journal Article

Kinematically complete experimental study of Compton scattering at helium atoms near the threshold


Trinter,  Florian
FS-PETRA-S, Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY;
Molecular Physics, Fritz Haber Institute, Max Planck Society;

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Kircher, M., Trinter, F., Grundmann, S., Vela-Perez, I., Brennecke, S., Eicke, N., et al. (2020). Kinematically complete experimental study of Compton scattering at helium atoms near the threshold. Nature Physics, 16(7), 756-760. doi:10.1038/s41567-020-0880-2.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0006-4F1B-5
Compton scattering is one of the fundamental interaction processes of light with matter. When discovered, it was described as a billiard-type collision of a photon ‘kicking’ a quasi-free electron. With decreasing photon energy, the maximum possible momentum transfer becomes so small that the corresponding energy falls below the binding energy of the electron. In this regime, ionization by Compton scattering becomes an intriguing quantum phenomenon. Here, we report on a kinematically complete experiment studying Compton scattering off helium atoms in that regime. We determine the momentum correlations of the electron, the recoiling ion and the scattered photon in a coincidence experiment based on cold target recoil ion momentum spectroscopy, finding that electrons are not only emitted in the direction of the momentum transfer, but that there is a second peak of ejection to the backward direction. This finding links Compton scattering to processes such as ionization by ultrashort optical pulses, electron impact ionization, ion impact ionization and neutron scattering, where similar momentum patterns occur.