Research ArticlePHYSICS

Direct imaging of ultrafast lattice dynamics

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Science Advances  08 Mar 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 3, eaau8044
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau8044


Under rapid high-temperature, high-pressure loading, lattices exhibit complex elastic-inelastic responses. The dynamics of these responses are challenging to measure experimentally because of high sample density and extremely small relevant spatial and temporal scales. Here, we use an x-ray free-electron laser providing simultaneous in situ direct imaging and x-ray diffraction to spatially resolve lattice dynamics of silicon under high–strain rate conditions. We present the first imaging of a new intermediate elastic feature modulating compression along the axis of applied stress, and we identify the structure, compression, and density behind each observed wave. The ultrafast probe x-rays enabled time-resolved characterization of the intermediate elastic feature, which is leveraged to constrain kinetic inhibition of the phase transformation between 2 and 4 ns. These results not only address long-standing questions about the response of silicon under extreme environments but also demonstrate the potential for ultrafast direct measurements to illuminate new lattice dynamics.

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