The Institute of Optics

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Terahertz Dynamics and Control in Complex Matter

Prof. Richard D. Averitt Boston University

Monday, November 26, 2012
3:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m.
Sloan Auditorium

Ultrafast optical pulses have emerged as a powerful tool to probe and control condensed matter. Importantly, femtosecond pulses temporally resolve dynamics at the fundamental timescales of atomic and electronic motion. Technological advances have resulted in the ability to create these “optical” pulses from the far-infrared through hard x-ray regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. This provides selective access to charge, lattice, spin, and orbital dynamics. These pulses can also be used to drive nonequilibrium phenomena in complex materials. One goal of these so-called “photoinduced phase transitions” is to initiate cooperative quantum dynamics. Imagine, for example, using photons to transiently create a superconductor or turn a charge ordered insulator into a metastable ferromagnetic metal. Following an introduction and overview of this research field, I will show examples of our work using picosecond terahertz pulses to probe and control matter including our recent demonstration of a metamaterial enhanced electric field driven insulator-to-metal transition in vanadium dioxide. 

Richard Averitt received his PhD degree in Applied Physics from Rice University for work on the synthesis and optical characterization of gold nanoshells. Following this, Richard was a Los Alamos National Laboratory Director’s Postdoctoral Fellow where his work focused on time resolved far-infrared spectroscopy of strongly correlated electron materials. In 2001, Richard became a member of the technical staff at Los Alamos, and in 2005 a member of the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies co-located at Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories. In 2007, Richard joined Boston University as a faculty member in the Department of Physics and the Boston University Photonics Center. Richard’s research is primarily directed towards characterizing, creating, and controlling the optical and electronic properties of complex materials. This includes metamaterial and plasmonic composites and quantum matter such as correlated transition metal oxides.