Cornell Chronicle Feature on Femtosecond control of phonon dynamics near a magnetic order critical point by Oleg in Nature Communications
The spin-phonon interaction in spin density wave (SDW) systems often determines the free energy landscape that drives the evolution of the system. When a passing energy flux, such as photoexcitation, drives a crystalline system far from equilibrium, the resulting lattice displacement generates transient vibrational states. Manipulating intermediate vibrational states in the vicinity of the critical point, where the SDW order parameter changes dramatically, would then allow dynamical control over functional properties. Here we combine double photoexcitation with an X-ray free-electron laser (XFEL) probe to control and detect the lifetime and magnitude of the intermediate vibrational state near the critical point of the SDW in chromium. We apply Landau theory to identify the mechanism of control as a repeated partial quench and sub picosecond recovery of the SDW. Our results showcase the capabilities to influence and monitor quantum states by combining multiple optical photoexcitations with an XFEL probe. They open new avenues for manipulating and researching the behaviour of photoexcited states in charge and spin order systems near the critical point.