Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik, Hans-Kopfermann-Strasse 1, 85748 Garching bei München, Germany.
Currently, the shortest laser pulses that can be generated in the visible spectrum consist of fewer than two optical cycles (measured at the full-width at half-maximum of the pulse's envelope). The time variation of the electric field in such a pulse depends on the phase of the carrier frequency with respect to the envelope-the absolute phase. Because intense laser-matter interactions generally depend on the electric field of the pulse, the absolute phase is important for a number of nonlinear processes. But clear evidence of absolute-phase effects has yet to be detected experimentally, largely because of the difficulty of stabilizing the absolute phase in powerful laser pulses. Here we use a technique that does not require phase stabilization to demonstrate experimentally the influence of the absolute phase of a short laser pulse on the emission of photoelectrons. Atoms are ionized by a short laser pulse, and the photoelectrons are recorded with two opposing detectors in a plane perpendicular to the laser beam. We detect an anticorrelation in the shot-to-shot analysis of the electron yield.