PerspectivePHASE TRANSITIONS

Snapshots of a light-triggered transition

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Science  22 Jan 2021:
Vol. 371, Issue 6527, pp. 341-342
DOI: 10.1126/science.abf1406

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Summary

In an iconic 1964 photo of a bullet piercing an apple, Harold “Doc” Edgerton captured a snapshot that took a mere millionth of a second (1). The same working principle behind his highspeed images have been adopted today to study the evolution of ordered states of matter after excitation by extremely short light pulses. To trace the time evolution of these ordered states after excitation, in which the atoms move on the femto- to pico second time scale (10−12 to 10−15 s), images need to be taken with both extraordinary temporal and spatial resolution. On page 371 of this issue, Danz et al. (2) show that this goal can be accomplished using time-resolved dark-field electron microscopy by obtaining real-space snapshots of a charge density wave phase transition triggered with pulses of light.

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