Report

The Formation of Warm Dense Matter: Experimental Evidence for Electronic Bond Hardening in Gold

Science  20 Feb 2009:
Vol. 323, Issue 5917, pp. 1033-1037
DOI: 10.1126/science.1162697

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Abstract

Under strong optical excitation conditions, it is possible to create highly nonequilibrium states of matter. The nuclear response is determined by the rate of energy transfer from the excited electrons to the nuclei and the instantaneous effect of change in electron distribution on the interatomic potential energy landscape. We used femtosecond electron diffraction to follow the structural evolution of strongly excited gold under these transient electronic conditions. Generally, materials become softer with excitation. In contrast, the rate of disordering of the gold lattice is found to be retarded at excitation levels up to 2.85 megajoules per kilogram with respect to the degree of lattice heating, which is indicative of increased lattice stability at high effective electronic temperatures, a predicted effect that illustrates the strong correlation between electronic structure and lattice bonding.

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