Ultrafast x-ray diffraction study of melt-front dynamics in polycrystalline thin films

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Science Advances  17 Jan 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 3, eaax2445
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax2445


Melting is a fundamental process of matter that is still not fully understood at the microscopic level. Here, we use time-resolved x-ray diffraction to examine the ultrafast melting of polycrystalline gold thin films using an optical laser pump followed by a delayed hard x-ray probe pulse. We observe the formation of an intermediate new diffraction peak, which we attribute to material trapped between the solid and melted states, that forms 50 ps after laser excitation and persists beyond 500 ps. The peak width grows rapidly for 50 ps and then narrows distinctly at longer time scales. We attribute this to a melting band originating from the grain boundaries and propagating into the grains. Our observation of this intermediate state has implications for the use of ultrafast lasers for ablation during pulsed laser deposition.

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