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Ultrafast optical shutter is switched entirely by laser light
Date:12/6/2007

it melts, as the conventional wisdom about phase transitions suggested. Instead, the researchers found that the stream of photons directly drive the oxygen atoms from one position to another by a process that is rather like pumping a swing in time with its natural frequency.

People have believed for a long time that what happened in this phase transition was that the electrons get excited and then, somehow or another, the crystal structure changes, says Haglund. But it turns out that the change in crystal structure is associated with this coherent molecular vibration.

Such a rapid transition is only possible because the difference between the metallic and semiconductor geometries is extremely small. You can think of the movement that results as a breathing motion of the oxygen cage that surrounds the vanadium ions, says Haglund. That makes it possible for the structure to change from the semiconducting to the metallic states. Its a little like taking a deep breath to get into last summers clothes.

This mechanism also allows the researchers to trigger the transition without changing the films temperature. We can focus the laser beam on a transparent vanadium dioxide film and create a small reflective spot. We can switch it on and off in less than 100 femtoseconds provided we havent dumped so much energy into the film that weve heated it up. However, the more laser energy you dump in the VO2, the longer it takes to return to the semiconducting state, Haglund says.


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Contact: David F. Salisbury
david.salisbury@vanderbilt.edu
615-343-6803
Vanderbilt University
Source:Eurekalert

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