Journal article

Design and implementation of an optimal laser pulse front tilting scheme for ultrafast electron diffraction in reflection geometry with high temporal resolution

Ultrafast electron diffraction is a powerful technique to investigate out-of-equilibrium atomic dynamics in solids with high temporal resolution. When diffraction is performed in reflection geometry, the main limitation is the mismatch in group velocity between the overlapping pump light and the electron probe pulses, which affects the overall temporal resolution of the experiment. A solution already available in the literature involved pulse front tilt of the pump beam at the sample, providing a sub-picosecond time resolution. However, in the reported optical scheme, the tilted pulse is characterized by a temporal chirp of about 1 ps at 1mm away from the centre of the beam, which limits the investigation of surface dynamics in large crystals. In this paper, we propose an optimal tilting scheme designed for a radio-frequency-compressed ultrafast electron diffraction setup working in reflection geometry with 30 keV electron pulses containing up to 10(5) electrons/pulse. To characterize our scheme, we performed optical cross-correlation measurements, obtaining an average temporal width of the tilted pulse lower than 250 fs. The calibration of the electron-laser temporal overlap was obtained by monitoring the spatial profile of the electron beam when interacting with the plasma optically induced at the apex of a copper needle (plasma lensing effect). Finally, we report the first time-resolved results obtained on graphite, where the electron-phonon coupling dynamics is observed, showing an overall temporal resolution in the sub-500 fs regime. The successful implementation of this configuration opens the way to directly probe structural dynamics of low-dimensional systems in the sub-picosecond regime, with pulsed electrons. (C) 2017 Author(s).


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