Ultrafast diffraction conoscopy of the structural phase transition in VO2: Evidence of two lattice distortions
AbstractPhotoinduced phase transitions in complex correlated systems occur very rapidly and involve the interplay between various electronic and lattice degrees of freedom. For these materials to be considered for practical applications, it is important to discover how their phase transitions take place. Here we use a novel ultrafast diffraction conoscopy technique to study the evolution of vanadium dioxide (VO2) from biaxial to uniaxial symmetry. A key finding in this study is an additional relaxation process through which the phase transition takes place. Our results show that the biaxial monoclinic crystal initially, within the first 100–300 fs, transforms to a transient biaxial crystal, and within the next 300–400 fs converts into a uniaxial rutile crystal. The characteristic times for these transitions depend on film morphology and are presumably altered by misfit strain. We take advantage of Landau phenomenology to describe the complex dynamics of VO2 phase transition in the femtosecond regime.