X-ray free-electron lasers provide unique opportunities for exploring ultrafast dynamics and for imaging the structures of complex systems. Understanding the response of individual atoms to intense X-rays is essential for most free-electron laser applications. First experiments have shown that, for light atoms, the dominant interaction mechanism is ionization by sequential electron ejection, where the highest charge state produced is defined by the last ionic state that can be ionized with one photon. Here, we report an unprecedentedly high degree of ionization of xenon atoms by 1.5 keV free-electron laser pulses to charge states with ionization energies far exceeding the photon energy. Comparing ion charge-state distributions and fluorescence spectra with state-of-the-art calculations, we find that these surprisingly high charge states are created via excitation of transient resonances in highly charged ions, and predict resonance enhanced absorption to be a general phenomenon in the interaction of intense X-rays with systems containing high-Z constituents.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
- Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics