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Holographic gratings are recorded in colloidal suspensions of silver nanoparticles by utilizing interfering nanosecond pulses. The diffraction efficiency is measured with continuous-wave light. An instantaneous response together with a transient grating are observed: the nanoparticles absorb the pump light and heat up. Heat is transferred to the solvent, and a delayed thermal grating appears. The final decay time constant of this grating depends quadratically on the period length and has a typical value of 1 μs for grating spacings of several micrometers. © 2006 Optical Society of America.