June 8, 2023

Physicists Startled To Discover a New Way To Shape a Material’s Atomic Structure With Light

” For this class of products thats extremely important, because their functional residential or commercial properties are connected with their structure,” stated Yijing Huang, a Stanford University college student who played an essential function in the experiments at the Department of Energys SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. “By changing the nature of the light you put in, you can customize the nature of the material you create.”
The experiments took location at SLACs X-ray free-electron laser, the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS). The outcomes were reported on February 14, 2022, in Physical Review X and will be highlighted in an unique collection devoted to ultrafast science.
Heat versus light
Theyre thought about a type of green energy due to the fact that thermoelectrics transform waste heat to electrical energy. Thermoelectric generators supplied electrical energy for the Apollo moon landing project, and scientists have been pursuing ways to utilize them to transform body heat into electricity for charging gadgets, to name a few things. Run in reverse, they produce a heat gradient that can be utilized to chill red wine in refrigerators without any moving parts.
Tin selenide is considered one of the most promising thermoelectric products that are grown as specific crystals, which are easy and fairly low-cost to make. Unlike numerous other thermoelectric materials, tin selenide is lead-free, Huang said, and its a far more efficient heat converter. Considering that it consists of regular cube-like crystals, comparable to those of rock salt, its also fairly easy to make and play with.
To explore how those crystals react to light, the group struck tin selenide with intense pulses of near-infrared laser light to change its structure. The light excited electrons in the samples atoms and moved the positions of some of those atoms, distorting their arrangement.
An illustration reveals how the atomic structure of tin selenide, a crystalline material that can convert heat to electricity, modifications when exposed to heat or ultrafast laser light. The structure in the middle is at space temperature level. Heating (left) moves the bottom and top atoms a little more left, from this point of view, and subtly moves a few of the other atoms. Scientists believed exposing the product to ultrafast laser light would do similar thing; rather its atoms moved in brand-new methods (right). SLACs X-ray free-electron laser, LCLS, allowed scientists to see these atomic motions and structural distortions for the first time, opening a brand-new opportunity to tailoring products with light. Credit: Yijing Huang/Stanford University
The scientists tracked and determined those atomic motions and the resulting modifications in the crystals structure with pulses of X-ray laser light from LCLS, which are quickly sufficient to capture modifications that take place in just millionths of a billionths of a 2nd.
” You require the ultrafast pulses and atomic resolution that LCLS gives us to rebuild where the atoms are moving,” stated study co-author David Reis, a teacher at SLAC and Stanford and director of the Stanford PULSE Institute. “Without that we would have gotten the story incorrect.”
A surprising result
This result was rather unanticipated, and when Huang told the remainder of the team what she had actually seen in the experiments, they had a difficult time believing her.
One reliable way of altering the atomic structure of tin selenide is to apply heat, which alters the product in a foreseeable method and actually makes this particular product carry out better. The traditional wisdom was that using laser light would produce much the very same outcome as heating.
This illustration of information from experiments with SLACs X-ray free-electron laser reveals how the atoms of a thermoelectric product called tin selenide moved (red arrows) from their room-temperature positions when exposed to ultrafast laser light. The research study demonstrates a brand-new opportunity for shaping the structures and related properties of products with light.
” Thats what we initially believed would take place,” stated SLAC personnel scientist Mariano Trigo, a detective with the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences (SIMES) at SLAC.
” But after almost two years of discussion, Yijing finally convinced the remainder of the group that no, we were driving the product towards an entirely various structure. I think this result goes versus the majority of peoples instinct about what happens when you excite electrons to greater energy levels.”
Theoretical computations by Shan Yang, a graduate trainee at Duke University, validated that this interpretation of the experimental information was the right one.
” This product and its class are definitely really intriguing, since its a system where small modifications might result in very various results,” Reis said. “But the capability to make totally new structures with light– structures we do not understand how to make any other way– is presumably more universal than that.”
One area where it might be beneficial, he added, is in the decades-old quest to make superconductors– products that carry out electrical power with no loss– that operate at near to space temperature.
Referral: “Observation of a Novel Lattice Instability in Ultrafast Photoexcited SnSe” by Yijing Huang, Shan Yang, Samuel Teitelbaum, Gilberto De la Peña, Takahiro Sato, Matthieu Chollet, Diling Zhu, Jennifer L. Niedziela, Dipanshu Bansal, Andrew F. May, Aaron M. Lindenberg, Olivier Delaire, David A. Reis and Mariano Trigo, 14 February 2022, Physical Review X.DOI: 10.1103/ PhysRevX.12.011029.
Researchers from DOEs Oak Ridge National Laboratory also contributed to the research study, which was funded by the DOE Office of Science. Initial work was carried out at SLACs Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL). SSRL and LCLS are DOE Office of Science user facilities.

Scientist changed the atomic structure of a thermoelectric product in a special method with pulses of intense laser light– an approach with prospective to create brand-new products with dramatic residential or commercial properties that are not seen in nature. An illustration shows how the atomic structure of tin selenide, a crystalline product that can transform heat to electricity, modifications when exposed to heat or ultrafast laser light. Researchers thought exposing the product to ultrafast laser light would do much the exact same thing; instead its atoms moved in brand-new methods (right). SLACs X-ray free-electron laser, LCLS, allowed researchers to see these atomic movements and structural distortions for the first time, opening a brand-new avenue to customizing products with light. The research study demonstrates a new opportunity for forming the structures and associated homes of materials with light.

Researchers altered the atomic structure of a thermoelectric product in a distinct method with pulses of extreme laser light– an approach with possible to create brand-new materials with dramatic homes that are not seen in nature. They were able to track and measure the atomic motions on a femtosecond time scale with the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) X-ray free-electron laser at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory Credit: Greg Stewart/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.
X-ray laser experiments show that intense light distorts the structure of a thermoelectric material in an unique method, opening a new opportunity for controlling the properties of products.
Thermoelectric products transform heat to electrical energy and vice versa, and their atomic structures are closely related to how well they carry out.
Now researchers have actually discovered how to alter the atomic structure of an extremely effective thermoelectric material, tin selenide, with extreme pulses of laser light. This outcome opens a brand-new way to improve thermoelectrics and a host of other materials by controlling their structure, creating materials with dramatic new properties that may not exist in nature.