Ultrafast electron dynamics and the role of screening

by Daniel Wegkamp

Institution: Freie Universität Berlin
Department: FB Physik
Degree: PhD
Year: 2015
Record ID: 1105966
Full text PDF: http://edocs.fu-berlin.de/diss/receive/FUDISS_thesis_000000099417


This thesis focuses on the ultrafast dynamics of electronic excitations in solids and how they are influenced by the screening of the Coulomb interaction between charged particles. The impact of screening on electron dynamics is manifold, ranging from modifications of electron-electron scattering rates over trapping of excess charges to massive renormalisation of electronic band structures. The timescales of these dynamical processes are directly accessible by femtosecond time-resolved photoemission and optical spectroscopy. Three exemplary systems are investigated to shed light onto these fundamental processes: Vanadiumdioxide undergoes a phase transition from a monoclinic insulator to a rutile metal. Apart from temperature, doping and other influences, the insulator-to-metal transition can also be driven by photoexcitation. This, in the past, gave rise to a controversy about the timescales of structural and electronic transition and raised the question which of them constitutes the driving mechanism. Using time-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy, it is shown that the electronic band gap of the insulator collapses instantaneously with photoexcitation and without any structural involvement. The reason is a change of screening due to the generation of photoholes. At the same time, the symmetry of the lattice potential changes, as seen by coherent phonon spectroscopy. This potential change is likely to initiate the structural phase transition from monoclinic to rutile structure. However, the initial non-equilibrium situation can be described by a metallic electronic structure with the atoms still in the monoclinic lattice positions. The SrTiO3/vacuum interface exhibits a two-dimensional electron gas (2DEG), which is delocalised within the surface plane, but localised perpendicular to it. The lower dimensionality changes the form of the screened Coulomb interaction and the phase space within the 2DEG, leading to modified hot carrier lifetimes. These are investigated by time-resolved photoemission spectroscopy: The predicted 2D behaviour is confirmed and two distinct final states within the unoccupied electronic band structure are discovered. Furthermore, the population of the 2DEG is transiently increased by photoexcitation from localised in-gap states into the 2DEG. A different type of screening by dipole moments in amorphous ice layers, is exploited to stabilise and trap electrons within the polar medium in front of a metal surface. Thereby, the mean free path of low energy electrons in amorphous ice is estimated. Moreover, the trapped electrons are used to drive a chemical reaction: A persistent modification of the surface electronic structure of the ice layer is explained via the `dielectron hydrogen evolution reaction'. Understanding the role of screening in these systems allows to explain seemingly unrelated effects, like trapping of excess electrons in ice and the insulator-to-metal transition in VO2, within the same concept. Diese Arbeit beschäftigt sich mit ultraschneller Dynamik elektronischer…