X-ray techniques have evolved over decades to become highly refined tools for a broad range of investigations. Importantly, these approaches rely on X-ray measurements that depend linearly on the number of incident X-ray photons. The advent of X-ray free electron lasers (XFELs) is opening the ability to reach extremely high photon numbers within ultrashort X-ray pulse durations and is leading to a paradigm shift in our ability to explore nonlinear X-ray signals. However, the enormous increase in X-ray peak power is a double-edged sword with new and exciting methods being developed but at the same time well-established techniques proving unreliable. Consequently, accurate knowledge about the threshold for nonlinear X-ray signals is essential. Herein we report an X-ray spectroscopic study that reveals important details on the thresholds for nonlinear X-ray interactions. By varying both the incident X-ray intensity and photon energy, we establish the regimes at which the simplest nonlinear process, two-photon X-ray absorption (TPA), can be observed. From these measurements we can extract the probability of this process as a function of photon energy and confirm both the nature and sub-femtosecond lifetime of the virtual intermediate electronic state.
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