Prof. Matteo Mitrano is one of the 83 award recipients of the 2022 Early Career Research Program selected by the Department of Energy. The program "is designed to bolster the nation’s scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during crucial early career years, when many scientists do their most formative work. These awards are a part of the DOE’s long-standing efforts to develop the next generation of STEM leaders who will solidify America’s role as the driver of science and innovation around the world."
Probing the nonequilibrium spin dynamics in photoexcited quantum materials
Quantum materials – i.e., systems exhibiting quantum-mechanical effects over wide energy and length scales – are key to the development of energy-efficient infrastructure, computing platforms, and advanced sensing methods. These solids exhibit extraordinary emergent quantum phenomena and are extremely susceptible to external perturbations, such as electric and magnetic fields, pressure, or doping.
The last two decades have witnessed dramatic advances in our capability to tailor quantum materials’ functionalities and induce emergent nonequilibrium states of matter via ultrashort laser pulses (such as transient superconductivity and Floquet topological phases). However, understanding these ultrafast processes requires experimental probes able to interrogate electronic, orbital, spin, and lattice dynamics at microscopic length and energy scales.
The project proposed by the Mitrano group will specifically address the behavior of light-driven spin fluctuations, traditionally challenging to investigate solely with optical methods. By leveraging the newly developed technique of time-resolved Resonant Inelastic X-ray Scattering, it will be finally possible to map the magnetic dynamics of quantum materials driven far from equilibrium. "Ultrafast x-rays enable taking snapshots of spins moving at atomically small length scales as we excite materials with tailored ultrafast laser pulses. They open a completely new window into the world of magnetic correlations in the solid state," Mitrano says.
Thanks to the DOE’s support, this research will make use of transformative new spectroscopic capabilities at x-ray free electron laser facilities and will further advance our understanding of light-induced phenomena in interacting electron systems. The results of these studies will define a strategy to synthesize novel states of matter without equilibrium analogues and to realize next-generation quantum technologies based on ultrafast light-matter interactions.