Phonon-assisted formation of an itinerant electronic density wave by Jiaruo in Nature Communications Physics
Electronic instabilities drive ordering transitions in condensed matter. Despite many advances in the microscopic understanding of the ordered states, a more nuanced and profound question often remains unanswered: how do the collective excitations influence the electronic order formation? Here, we experimentally show that a phonon affects the spin density wave (SDW) formation after an SDW-quench by femtosecond laser pulses. In a thin film, the temperature-dependent SDW period is quantized, allowing us to track the out-of-equilibrium formation path of the SDW precisely. By exploiting its persistent coupling to the lattice, we probe the SDW through the transient lattice distortion, measured by femtosecond X-ray diffraction. We find that within 500 femtoseconds after a complete quench, the SDW forms with the low-temperature period, directly bypassing a thermal state with the high-temperature period. We argue that a wavevector-matched phonon launched by the quench changes the formation path of the SDW through the dynamic pinning of the order parameter.