Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Abstract-Probing and controlling terahertz-driven structural dynamics with surface sensitivity

Intense, single-cycle terahertz (THz) pulses offer a promising approach for understanding and controlling the properties of a material on an ultrafast time scale. In particular, resonantly exciting phonons leads to a better understanding of how they couple to other degrees of freedom in the material (e.g., ferroelectricity, conductivity and magnetism) while enabling coherent control of lattice vibrations and the symmetry changes associated with them. However, an ultrafast method for observing the resulting structural changes at the atomic scale is essential for studying phonon dynamics. A simple approach for doing this is optical second harmonic generation (SHG), a technique with remarkable sensitivity to crystalline symmetry in the bulk of a material as well as at surfaces and interfaces. This makes SHG an ideal method for probing phonon dynamics in topological insulators (TI), materials with unique surface transport properties. Here, we resonantly excite a polar phonon mode in the canonical TI Bi2Se3 with intense THz pulses and probe the subsequent response with SHG. This enables us to separate the photoinduced lattice dynamics at the surface from transient inversion symmetry breaking in the bulk. Furthermore, we coherently control the phonon oscillations by varying the time delay between a pair of driving THz pulses. Our work thus demonstrates a versatile, table-top tool for probing and controlling ultrafast phonon dynamics in materials, particularly at surfaces and interfaces, such as that between a TI and a magnetic material, where exotic new states of matter are predicted to exist.

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