Birth and decay of coherent optical phonons in femtosecond-laser-excited bismuth

T. Garl*, E. G. Gamaly, D. Boschetto, A. V. Rode, B. Luther-Davies, A. Rousse

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    44 Citations (Scopus)


    The transient reflectivity of bismuth crystal excited by a 45 fs laser pulse in the near-infrared range has been recovered with an accuracy of 10-5, at initial sample temperatures ranging from 50 to 510 K, and at pump fluences from 2 mJ/ cm2 to 21 mJ/ cm2. The coherent phonon excitation and decay processes were imprinted into the time-dependent reflectivity and this allows us to uncover the temporal phonon history preceding the structural transformation of solid Bi. Analysis showed that the first coherent atomic displacement was produced by the polarization force and the electron pressure force during the laser pulse, and that manifests itself by a negative change in the reflectivity. The frequency of the subsequent reflectivity oscillations was chirped, redshifted from the initial value due to the lattice heating. The amplitude decreased gradually while electrons transferred their energy to the lattice. Heating and thermal expansion of the lattice transformed the initially coherent harmonic vibrations of atoms into strongly nonlinear chaotic motion that signifies the onset of disordering of the solid. This process was identified through measurement of the damping rate of the reflectivity oscillations and interpretation of this rate as the decay rate of an optical phonon into two acoustic phonons. The analysis of the reflectivity oscillations provides evidence that the overheated solid experiences only the onset of the solid-liquid phase transition but did not proceed into the liquid phase. General relations between the laser-exerted forces, the atomic motion, and the optical parameters were established. The proposed theory reproduces well the measured transient reflectivity across a wide range of crystal temperatures and laser excitation fluences.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number134302
    JournalPhysical Review B - Condensed Matter and Materials Physics
    Issue number13
    Publication statusPublished - 8 Oct 2008


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