Direct determination of mode-projected electron-phonon coupling in the time domain

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Science  06 Dec 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6470, pp. 1231-1236
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw1662

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A timely look into electron-phonon coupling

The coupling between electrons and phonons—lattice vibrations in solids—is responsible for macroscopic quantum phenomena such as superconductivity. Yet, experimentally measuring this coupling as a function of momentum and for a particular phonon mode is tricky. Na et al. used time- and angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy to excite electrons in graphite and monitor their decay, which was accompanied by the release of phonons. The time constants of these decay processes provided direct information on electron-phonon couplings in this system.

Science, this issue p. 1231


Ultrafast spectroscopies have become an important tool for elucidating the microscopic description and dynamical properties of quantum materials. In particular, by tracking the dynamics of nonthermal electrons, a material’s dominant scattering processes can be revealed. Here, we present a method for extracting the electron-phonon coupling strength in the time domain, using time- and angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy (TR-ARPES). This method is demonstrated in graphite, where we investigate the dynamics of photoinjected electrons at the K¯ point, detecting quantized energy-loss processes that correspond to the emission of strongly coupled optical phonons. We show that the observed characteristic time scale for spectral weight transfer mediated by phonon-scattering processes allows for the direct quantitative extraction of electron-phonon matrix elements for specific modes.

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