Femtosecond electron diffraction (FED) has the potential to directly observe transition state processes. The relevant motions for this barrier-crossing event occur on the hundred femtosecond time-scale. Recent advances in the development of high-flux electron pulse sources with the required time resolution and sensitivity to capture barrier-crossing processes are described in the context of attaining atomic level details of such structural dynamics—seeing chemical events as they occur. Initial work focused on the ordered-to-disordered phase transition of Al under strong driving conditions for which melting takes on nm or molecular scale dimensions. This work has been extended to Au, which clearly shows a separation in time-scales for lattice heating and melting. It also demonstrates that superheated face-centred cubic (FCC) metals melt through thermal mechanisms involving homogeneous nucleation to propagate the disordering process. A new concept exploiting electron–electron correlation is introduced for pulse characterization and determination of t=0 to within 100 fs as well as for spatial manipulation of the electron beam. Laser-based methods are shown to provide further improvements in time resolution with respect to pulse characterization, absolute t=0 determination, and the potential for electron acceleration to energies optimal for time-resolved diffraction.
One contribution of 15 to a Discussion Meeting Issue ‘Laser-driven particle accelerators: new sources of energetic particles and radiation’.
- © 2006 The Royal Society