Femtosecond and nanometre visualization of structural dynamics in superheated nanoparticles
Authors: Gorkhover T, Schorb S, Coffee R, Adolph M, Foucar L, Rupp D, Aquila A, Bozek JD, Epp SW, Erk B, Gumprecht L, Holmegaard L, Hartmann A, Hartmann R, Hauser G, Holl P, Hömke A, Johnsson P, Kimmel N, Kühnel K.-U, Messerschmidt M, Reich C, Rouzée A, Rudek B, Schmidt C, Schulz J, Soltau H, Stern S, Weidenspointner G, White B, Küpper J, Strüder L, Schlichting I, Ullrich J, Rolles D, Rudenko A, Möller T, Bostedt C
CellNetworks People: Schlichting Ilme
Journal: Nat Photonics. 2016 Jan 25; 10, 93–97, doi:10.1038/nphoton.2015.264.

The ability to observe ultrafast structural changes in nanoscopic samples is essential for understanding non-equilibrium phenomena such as chemical reactions, matter under extreme conditions, ultrafast phase transitions and intense light–matter interactions. Established imaging techniques are limited either in time or spatial resolution and typically require samples to be deposited on a substrate, which interferes with the dynamics. Here, we show that coherent X-ray diffraction images from isolated single samples can be used to visualize femtosecond electron density dynamics. We recorded X-ray snapshot images from a nanoplasma expansion, a prototypical non-equilibrium phenomenon. Single Xe clusters are superheated using an intense optical laser pulse and the structural evolution of the sample is imaged with a single X-ray pulse. We resolved ultrafast surface softening on the nanometre scale at the plasma/vacuum interface within 100 fs of the heating pulse. Our study is the first time-resolved visualization of irreversible femtosecond processes in free, individual nanometre-sized samples.