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Ultrafast Response of Photoexcited Carriers in Transition Metal Oxides under High Pressure
Braun, J. M.;
In this work, optical pump – near-infrared probe and near-infrared pump – mid-infrared probe spectroscopy are used for the investigation of pressure-induced insulator-tometal transitions in transition metal oxide compounds. The materials under study are a-Fe₂O₃, also known as hematite, and VO₂. Both materials undergo pressureinduced metallization. However, the physical mechanisms of this phase transition are very different for these systems and have not been fully understood up to now. Using ultrafast pump-probe spectroscopy we obtain an insight into the evolution of the band structure and electron dynamics across the insulator-to-metal transition.
In the case of VO₂, our near-infrared pump – mid-infrared probe experiments reveal a non-vanishing pumping threshold for photo-induced metallization even at our highest pressures around 20 GPa. This demonstrates the existence of localized charge carriers and the corresponding persistence of a band gap. Besides the threshold behaviour for photo-induced metallization, the carrier relaxation time scale, and the linear reflectivity and transmissivity have been studied under pressure increase. An anomaly in the threshold behaviour as well as the linear reflectivity and transmissivity at a critical pressure around 7 GPa indicates band gap filling under pressure. This is further supported by results obtained under decompression, where the changes of the linear reflectivity turned out to be almost fully reversible. The observations on VO₂ are highly reproducible and can be explained in terms of a pressure-induced bandwidth-driven insulator-to-metal transition.
Fe₂O₃ has been studied via optical pump – near-infrared probe spectroscopy up to pressures of 60 GPa. In the pressure range up to 40 GPa, the changes of the response can be explained by photo-induced absorption and bleaching. The pressure-dependent study of the relaxation dynamics allows to identify cooling of the electron system as origin of the picosecond relaxation process. A sharp anomaly found in the response of Fe₂O₃ at 40 GPa indicates a strong rearrangement of the electronic band structure which could be explained by an insulator-to-metal phase transition induced by pumping.
The successful demonstration of pump-probe experiments in diamond anvil cells using pulses from optical to mid-infrared wavelengths and reaching pressures of several tens of GPa is a good basis for further experimental high-pressure studies. Our results obtained on VO₂ and Fe₂O₃ can serve as a benchmark for the development of advanced material models.
Keywords: metal-insulator transition; high-pressure; ultrafast spectroscopy; correlated oxides
  • Open Access LogoWissenschaftlich-Technische Berichte / Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf; HZDR-101 2019


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