Welcome to the Structural & Electronic Surface Dynamics Group!

We are an experimental research group investigating the electronic and atomic structure of solids and heterostructures in out-of-equilibrium conditions. We develop and use ultrafast techniques providing movies of the electronic and atomic structure structure in solids and nanostructures. From these time-resolved measurements we infer information on coupling and correlation effects of electrons and atomic motion. Our techniques includes time- and angle-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy (trARPES), femtosecond electron diffraction and microscopy, and time-resolved optical spectroscopy.


Feb 2019: BiGmax project approved / postdoctoral research opportunity

BiGmax is a Max Planck Research network on big-data-driven materials science. We collaborate with computer scientists from the MPI for Intelligent Systems to apply machine learning approaches to multidimensional photoemission data.

We are seeking a postdoctoral researcher for this interdisciplinary project merging condensed matter physics and computer science.

Feb 2019: Description of our time- and angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy setup

new paper: Puppin et al., Rev. Sci. Inst. 90, 023104 (2019).
open access: arXiv 1811.06939

TrARPES with a laser-based 500 kHz XUV beamline: we report the result of a long-term experimental development project. We developed a high-repetition rate extreme ultraviolet laser source (photon energy: 22 eV, pulse duration: 20 fs) which is used as probe pulses in trARPES experiments. This experimental setup allows multidimensional photoemission spectroscopy: the electronic structure of solids in an excited state can be observed in energy, both parallel momentum directions, and time.

Feb 2019: THz compression of electron pulses to sub-30 fs pulse duration

In collaboration with the group of Peter Baum, Univ. Konstanz, a short-pulse electron source providing few-electron bunches with a duration below 30 fs was developed.

Ehberger et al., Phys. Rev. Applied 11, 024034 (2019).

Jan 2019: Helene Seiler receives SNF grant

Helene Seiler was awarded a postdoc mobility grant by the Swiss National Science Foundation. Helene will study ultrafast structural dynamics in photovoltaic materials.

Jan 2019: Symmetry-guided non-rigid registration

new manuscript: Xian et al., arXiv 1901.00312
An image symmetrization algorithm for symmetry criteria-based correction of volumetric data is described.

Dec 2018: Excited state structure and dynamics of atomic indium wires

new manuscript: Nicholson et al., arXiv 1812.11385

Nov 2018: Beyond the molecular movie: dynamics of bands and bonds during a photo-induced phase transition

new paper: Nicholson et al., Science 362, 821 (2018)
open access: arXiv 1803.11022

Read the press release.

Nov 2018: Chris Nicholson receives the Carl-Ramsauer-Preis der Physikalischen Gesellschaft zu Berlin

Chris Nicholson, former collaborator from the Dynamics of Correlated Materials Group, receives the Carl-Ramsauer-Preis for his PhD studies on ultrafast electron dynamics in low-dimensional systems. Congrats, Chris!

July 2018: hot-electron induced disordering of gold nanoclusters revealed

We investigated the flow of energy in laser-excited gold nanoclusters arranged on different thin film substrates with femtosecond electron diffraction. This experiment revealed an ultrafast disordering of the nanocluster’s surface atoms which only occurs in the presence of hot electrons with a temperature exceeding 3000 K. These findings result from a collaboration with the group of Richard Palmer, Swansea University.

Vasileiadis et al., ACS Nano 12, 7710 (2018), [doi: 10.1021/acsnano.8b01423].
open access: arXiv:1803.00074

June 2018: start of a project in the Max Planck-EPFL Center

We received funding for a collaboration with the group of Majed Chergui for the investigation of perovskite materials with ultrafast techniques. This project is embedded in the Max Planck-EPFL Center for Molecular Nanoscience and Technology.

March 2018: DPG price for Lutz Waldecker

Lutz Waldecker receives the Dissertationspreis of the Condensed Matter Physics Section of the German Physical Society for his PhD studies of ultrafast phonon dynamics in solids. Congratulations, Lutz!

Fall 2017 – spring 2018: reinstallation of the trARPES experiment in the new clean-room laboratory

January 2018: start of DFG-funded project on ultrafast spin dynamics in semiconductor-metal heterostructures

We are participating in the trans-regional collaborative research center TRR227. 18 projects located at the Freie Universität Berlin, the Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin, the Max-Born-Institut and the Fritz-Haber-Institut will study ultrafast spin dynamics with different approaches. We will use trARPES for the investigation of charge and spin currents in heterostructures. A project summary can be found here.

July 2017: A momentum-resolved view on phonon dynamics in WSe2

new paper: Waldecker et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 119, 036803 (2017).
open access: arXiv:1703.03496

The interaction of electrons and phonons dictate fundamental processes in solids: the conductivity of charge carriers and heat, energy dissipation, etc. We investigate the basic mechanism of electron-phonon interaction with ultrafast techniques, in particular femtosecond electron diffraction. By tacking snapshots of the atomic structure of a sample, movies of ultrafast structural dynamics can be obtained. In this work, we investigate the layered semiconductor material tungsten diselenide and show that the electrons interact preferentially with phonons with large momentum vector.

Summer-fall 2017: move of the experiments to the new clean-room laboratory

March 2017: Melanie Müller receives doctorate from Freie Universität Berlin

The investigation of the motion of electrons and atoms in nanostructures requires ultrafast measurement techniques with a high sensitivity to tiny sample volumes. Low-energy electrons have the highest scattering cross section and interact strongly with electric and magnetic fields. During her PhD studies, Melanie Müller developed a novel ultrafast electron microscopy technique based on femtosecond single-electron wave packets emitted from a sharp metallic needle. Utilizing this technique, Melanie demonstrated that the photocurrent arising inside an InP nanowire after optical excitation e can be filmed with femtosecond resolution. Melanie received her PhD with distinction.

February 2017: Coherent and Incoherent Structural Dynamics in Laser-Excited Antimony


February 2017: Coherent and Incoherent Structural Dynamics in Laser-Excited Antimony

new paper: Waldecker et al., Physical Review B 95, 54302 (2017).

The semimetal antimony is a model system for studying electron-lattice correlation and coherent phonons. The electronic structure of antimony induces a static lattice distortion, a so-called Peierls distortion. Optical excitation of the electrons with a short laser pulse impulsively reduces the mechanism of the Peierls distortion, leading to a collective oscillation of all atoms in the crystal. In addition, the energy given to the electrons by the laser pulse dissipates by incoherent scattering of the electrons with all other lattice vibrations. Applying our femtosecond electron diffraction apparatus, we were able to simultaneously observe and distinguish both phenomena.

January 2017: Patrick Xian joins the group after completing his PhD at the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter and the University of Hamburg. He will employ trARPES to study orbital dynamics in molecular crystals and develop toolboxes for thorough analysis of multidimensional trARPES data.


December 2016: Generation and evolution of spin-, valley- and layer-polarized excited carriers in inversion-symmetric WSe2

new paper: Bertoni et al., Physical Review Letters 117, 277201 (2016).

A range of transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDCs) are semiconductors with layered crystalline structure. In the form of monolayers, these TMDCs are 2D materials with peculiar optoelectronic properties and an unusual spin texture of the electronic structure, i.e. a spin-valley correlation. In contrast, bilayers and bulk crystals of 2H-WSe2 are centrosymmetric, which causes all electronic states to be spin-degenerate. We show, however, that spin-polarized excited carriers can be generated in bulk crystals of the non-magnetic layered material WSe2. This is a consequence of the hidden spin polarization in this class of materials: optical excitations generates excited states with 2D character, i.e. localized to an individual layer in the crystal. The broken atomic-site asymmetry (within each layer) dominates over the symmetry of the unit cell (consisting of two-layers) and results in spin-polarized excited states, which are additionally localized in real and reciprocal space. This finding suggests the suitability of semiconducting TMDCs for spintronic applications.

November 2016: Lutz Waldecker receives the PhD thesis award.

Lutz Waldecker receives the Carl Ramsauer Award of the Physikalische Gesellschaft zu Berlin (PGzB) in recognition of his PhD thesis Electron-Lattice Interactions and Ultrafast Structural Dynamics of Solids. The price is awarded for outstanding doctoral research studies in physics or related fields at the three Berlin universities and the University of Potsdam. Congrats, Lutz!


November 2016: Control of current by the electric field of a short laser pulses

In collaboration with researchers at the MPI for Quantum Optics, both Munich universities and Monash University, Australia, the generation and control of electric current in a semiconductor on time scales short than the oscillation period of visible light (~2 femtoseconds) has been demonstrated. This study extends the previously achieved current control in dielectrics to the material class of semiconductors. The study reveals a crossover in the mechanism of current generation from the multiphoton to the tunneling regime depending on the intensity of the employed laser pulses.

Publication: Paasch-Colberg et al., Optica 3, 1358 (2016).


October 2016: Time-  and angle-resolved study of the role of electrons and phonons in the charge density wave material TiSe2 published in Physical Review B

At room temperature, titanium diselenide is a metallic crystal with pronounced electron-electron as well as electron-phonon correlations. At low temperature, a metal-insulator phase transition occurs concurrently with the formation of a charge density wave and a periodic lattice distortion. In collaboration with the research group Dynamics of Correlated Materials, we investigated the response of the electronic structure of this material to infrared and infrared optical excitation. The transient electronic structure was measured with time-, energy- and momentum-resolution by time- and angle-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy (trARPES) employing femtosecond extreme-ultraviolet laser pulses.

full publication: Monney et al., Phys. Rev. 94, 165165 (2016).

September 2016: Best Poster Award for Michele Puppin

Michele Puppin receives the Best Poster Prize at IMPACT 2016 (Electronic States and Phases Induced by Electric or Optical Impacts). The poster describes how to map the conduction band of a semiconductor in the whole Brillouin zone with the help of high-repetition rate XUV time- and angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy (trARPES). The study directly visualizes the valence and conduction bands of the bi-dimensional semiconductor WSe2, a member of the transition metal dichalcogenide family.


May 2016: Lutz Waldecker graduates at Freie Universität Berlin

Lutz Waldecker developed a femtosecond electron diffractometer and employed this apparatus to study Electron-Lattice Interactions and Ultrafast Structural Dynamics of Solids. He received his PhD with distinction from FU Berlin.

Illustration of electron-phonon coupling in the non-thermal lattice model.

May 2016: Electron-phonon Coupling and Energy Flow in a Simple Metal beyond the Two-Temperature Approximation

new paper: Waldecker et al., Phys. Rev. X 6, 021003 (2016)

We revisited a basic problem: the exchange of energy between electrons and phonons in a simple metal like aluminum. Typically, this energy flow is described by the two-temperature model. We show that this model needs to be refined and propose the non-thermal lattice model.


March 2016: Nanofocused Plasmon-Driven Sub-10 fs Electron Point Source

new paper: Müller et al., ACS Photonics 3, 611 (2016)

We report a point source of single electron wave packets driven by plasmons. The duration of the electron wave packets is less than 10 femtoseconds. This source enables femtosecond electron holography, and potentially even femtosecond scanning tunneling microscopy.
This work was performed in collaboration with the group of Markus Raschke at the University of Colorado.

February 2016: Ralph Ernstorfer receives ERC Consolidator Grant

The European Research Council (ERC) funds the 5-year project FLATLAND with 2.6 million €.

FLATLAND is an experimental research project addressing the exotic spin-valley-layer correlations in few-layer thick transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDC) crystals and related heterostructures. Microscopic coupling and correlation effects, both within pure materials as well as across the interface of heterostructures, will be accessed by time- and angle-resolved extreme ultraviolet-photoelectron spectroscopy, femtosecond electron diffraction, and time-resolved optical spectroscopies. The project promises unprecedented insight into the microscopic coupling mechanisms governing the performance of van der Waals-bonded devices.

The project starts in October 2016.


December 2015: First time- and angle-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy with our 0.5 MHz extreme ultraviolet laser

We developed a high-repetition rate extreme ultraviolet (XUV) laser delivering 500,000 pulses of photons with 22 eV energy and a duration of approximately 20 femtoseconds. These light pulses are used to photoemit electrons from a crystal in order to obtain a map of the material’s electronic structure. As we use a second, visible laser pulse to excite a small fraction of the material’s electrons into excited states shortly before the XUV pulses arrive, we are now able to do excited state mapping and to take movies of how electrons scatter in the band structure.

This achievement required years of development of new laser sources (see Puppin et al., Opt. Exp. 23 1491, 2015), high-harmonic generation, and a sophisticated surface science apparatus. This novel technique is developed in close collaboration with the Dynamics of Correlated Materials group.

October 2015: Time-domain separation of optical properties from structural transitions in resonantly bonded materials

new paper: Waldecker et al., Nature Materials 14, 991 (2015)

No need to read. There is an audiovisual summary of this work: