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Postgraduate research project

Imaging quantum materials with an XFEL

Type of degree
Doctor of Philosophy
Entry requirements
2:1 honours
(View full entry requirements)
Faculty graduate school
Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences
Closing date

About the project

Quantum materials can often exhibit novel and multifunctional properties due to strong coupling between lattice, charge, spin and orbital degrees of freedom. When perturbed into an excited state, non-equilibrium phases often emerge on the femtosecond timescale. They include light-induced superconductivity, terahertz-induced ferroelectricity and ultra-fast solid-phase structural transformations. Understanding non-equilibrium phases in quantum materials is of great interest for the development of next generation technologies and to better understand the underlying mechanisms. To further understand these hidden phases, tools to probe quantum materials with femto-second time-resolution are required.

X-ray Free Electron Laser (XFEL) facilities such as the European XFEL and the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) XFEL are unprecedented in providing ultra-short pulses of coherent x-rays that make it possible to measure ultra-fast dynamics in quantum materials simultaneously with nanoscale spatial resolution and femto-second time resolution. While preliminary work has begun on the use of XFELs to study quantum behaviour in materials, there are a wide range of strongly correlated materials that exhibit novel behaviour that is not well understood.

This project will investigate structural phenomena in nanoscale quantum materials using time-resolved Bragg coherent diffraction imaging (BCDI) at various XFEL facilities. Prototypical material systems include but are not limited to perovskites such as bismuth ferrite and binary oxides such as vanadium dioxide. The overall aim is to directly observe atomic motions during the event of a quantum phase transition. The ability to quantitatively observe atomic motions within the transition state region where atoms exchange nuclear configurations will greatly facilitate our understanding of the physical processes.

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