Theory of strong-field attosecond transient absorption
Attosecond transient absorption is one of the promising new techniques being developed to exploit the availability of sub-femtosecond extreme ultraviolet (XUV) pulses to study the dynamics of the electron on its natural time scale. The temporal resolution in a transient absorption setup comes from the control of the relative delay and coherence between pump and probe pulses, while the spectral resolution comes from the characteristic width of the features that are being probed. In this review we focus on transient absorption scenarios where an attosecond pulse of XUV radiation creates a broadband excitation that is subsequently probed by a few cycle infrared (IR) laser. Because the attosecond XUV pulses are locked to the IR field cycle, the exchange of energy in the laser-matter interaction can be studied with unprecedented precision. We focus on the transient absorption by helium atoms of XUV radiation around the first ionization threshold, where we can simultaneoulsy solve the time-dependent Schrödinger equation for the single atom response and the Maxwell wave equation for the collective response of the nonlinear medium. We use a time-domain method that allows us to treat on an equal footing all the different linear and nonlinear processes by which the medium can exchange energy with the fields. We present several simple models, based on a few-level system interacting with a strong IR field, to explain many of the novel features found in attosecond transient absorption spectrograms. These include the presence of light-induced states, which demonstrate the ability to probe the dressed states of the atom. We also present a time-domain interpretation of the resonant pulse propagation features that appear in absorption spectra in dense, macroscopic media. We close by reviewing several recent experimental results that can be explained in terms of the models we discuss. Our aim is to present a road map for understanding future attosecond transient absorption experiments in more complex systems.