A photoinduced metal-like phase of monoclinic VO2 revealed by ultrafast electron diffraction

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Science  24 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6208, pp. 445-448
DOI: 10.1126/science.1253779

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How to make vanadium dioxide metallic

At about 70°C, the material vanadium dioxide (VO2) switches from being a semiconductor to a metal. The switch happens so fast that it may be useful in electronic devices, but it is not clear whether the switch is primarily caused by enhanced interactions between electrons or by a change in the crystal structure. Morrison et al. shone laser light on a sample of VO2, initially in a semiconducting state. They used electron diffraction to monitor the changes in the material's crystal structure and simultaneously measured its optical properties to monitor the electronic state. For certain laser powers, VO2 switched to a long-lived metallic state even though it preserved its initial crystal structure.

Science, this issue p. 445


The complex interplay among several active degrees of freedom (charge, lattice, orbital, and spin) is thought to determine the electronic properties of many oxides. We report on combined ultrafast electron diffraction and infrared transmissivity experiments in which we directly monitored and separated the lattice and charge density reorganizations that are associated with the optically induced semiconductor-metal transition in vanadium dioxide (VO2). By photoexciting the monoclinic semiconducting phase, we were able to induce a transition to a metastable state that retained the periodic lattice distortion characteristic of the semiconductor but also acquired metal-like mid-infrared optical properties. Our results demonstrate that ultrafast electron diffraction is capable of following details of both lattice and electronic structural dynamics on the ultrafast time scale.

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