Ultrafast Three-Dimensional Imaging of Lattice Dynamics in Individual Gold Nanocrystals

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Science  05 Jul 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6141, pp. 56-59
DOI: 10.1126/science.1236034

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Distorted Nanoparticle

Nanoparticles have found many applications in modern technology; however, the full characterization of individual particles is challenging. One of the most interesting mechanical properties is the particle's response to lattice distortion. This property has been probed for ensembles of nanoparticles, but the required averaging may distort the results. Clark et al. (p. 56, published online 23 May; see the Perspective by Hartland and Lo) were able to image the generation and subsequent evolution of coherent acoustic phonons from an individual perturbed gold nanocrystal on the picosecond time scale.


Key insights into the behavior of materials can be gained by observing their structure as they undergo lattice distortion. Laser pulses on the femtosecond time scale can be used to induce disorder in a “pump-probe” experiment with the ensuing transients being probed stroboscopically with femtosecond pulses of visible light, x-rays, or electrons. Here we report three-dimensional imaging of the generation and subsequent evolution of coherent acoustic phonons on the picosecond time scale within a single gold nanocrystal by means of an x-ray free-electron laser, providing insights into the physics of this phenomenon. Our results allow comparison and confirmation of predictive models based on continuum elasticity theory and molecular dynamics simulations.

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