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Hard X-ray transient grating spectroscopy on bismuth germanate

An Author Correction to this article was published on 11 May 2021

This article has been updated


Optical-domain transient grating (TG) spectroscopy is a versatile background-free four-wave-mixing technique that is used to probe vibrational, magnetic and electronic degrees of freedom in the time domain1. The newly developed coherent X-ray free-electron laser sources allow its extension to the X-ray regime. X-rays offer multiple advantages for TG: their large penetration depth allows probing the bulk properties of materials, their element specificity can address core excited states, and their short wavelengths create excitation gratings with unprecedented momentum transfer and spatial resolution. Here, we demonstrate TG excitation in the hard X-ray range at 7.1 keV. In bismuth germanate (BGO), the non-resonant TG excitation generates coherent optical phonons detected as a function of time by diffraction of an optical probe pulse. This experiment demonstrates the ability to probe bulk properties of materials and paves the way for ultrafast coherent four-wave-mixing techniques using X-ray probes and involving nanoscale TG spatial periods.

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Fig. 1: X-ray TG (XTG) uses the Talbot effect from a phase grating to generate the transient excitation.
Fig. 2: Footprints of the signal beam on the CCD detector.
Fig. 3: The XTG signal at 2-ps time delay as a function of the X-ray intensity at the sample.
Fig. 4: XTG signals from BGO at 7.1 keV with an excitation grating pitch of 770 nm.

Data availability

The raw data used in this study are available from the corresponding authors upon request.

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This study was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF, grant no. 200021_165550/1), the SNSF research instrument NCCR Molecular Ultrafast Science and Technology (NCCR MUST, grants 51NF40-183615 and 200021_169017), the ERC Grant ‘DYNAMOX’ (ERC-2015-AdG-694097) and the EU-H2020 Research and Innovation Programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreements (701647, 654360 NFFA-Europe, 801459-FP-RESOMUS and 871124 Laserlab-Europe). The contribution of the MIT participants A.A.M. and K.A.N. was supported by the US Department of Energy award DE-SC0019126. We thank M. Dzambegovic for the graphical rendering of Fig. 1a.

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Authors and Affiliations



C.S. conceptualized the framework of the experiment. J.R.R. and C.S. designed the experiment. G.S. and C.D. fabricated the diamond gratings. B.R. carried out the optical microscopy of the static printed gratings. All members of the team participated in the experiment and were involved in the discussions. J.R.R., D.F. and E.F. carried out the data reduction. J.R.R., D.F. and C.S. performed the data analysis. C.S., J.R.R. and D.F. wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jérémy R. Rouxel or Cristian Svetina.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Peer review information Nature Photonics thanks Ryan Coffee and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–11, Discussion and Tables 1–3.

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Rouxel, J.R., Fainozzi, D., Mankowsky, R. et al. Hard X-ray transient grating spectroscopy on bismuth germanate. Nat. Photon. 15, 499–503 (2021).

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