Stimulation with ultrafast light pulses can realize and manipulate states of matter with emergent structural, electronic and magnetic phenomena. However, these non-equilibrium phases are often transient and the challenge is to stabilize them as persistent states. Here, we show that atomic-scale PbTiO 3 /SrTiO 3 superlattices, counterpoising strain and polarization states in alternate layers, are converted by sub-picosecond optical pulses to a supercrystal phase. This phase persists indefinitely under ambient conditions, has not been created via equilibrium routes, and can be erased by heating. X-ray scattering and microscopy show this unusual phase consists of a coherent three-dimensional structure with polar, strain and charge-ordering periodicities of up to 30 nm. By adjusting only dielectric properties, the phase-field model describes this emergent phase as a photo-induced charge-stabilized supercrystal formed from a two-phase equilibrium state. Our results demonstrate opportunities for light-activated pathways to thermally inaccessible and emergent metastable states.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Materials Science(all)
- Condensed Matter Physics
- Mechanics of Materials
- Mechanical Engineering