Charge transport processes at interfaces which are governed by complex interfacial electronic structure play a crucial role in catalytic reactions, energy storage, photovoltaics, and many biological processes. Here, the first soft X-ray second harmonic generation (SXR-SHG) interfacial spectrum of a buried interface (boron/Parylene-N)is reported. SXR-SHG shows distinct spectral features that are not observed in X-ray absorption spectra, demonstrating its extraordinary interfacial sensitivity. Comparison to electronic structure calculations indicates a boron-organic separation distance of 1.9±0.1 Å, wherein changes as small as 0.1 Å result in easily detectable SXR-SHG spectral shifts (ca. 100s of meV). As SXR-SHG is inherently ultrafast and sensitive to individual atomic layers, it creates the possibility to study a variety of interfacial processes, e.g. catalysis, with ultrafast time resolution and bond specificity.
This work was done in collaboration with researchers from the Saykally group at UCB, LBNL, UC San Diego, SLAC, and FERMI. The experiments were conducted at the free-electron laser facility FERMI in Italy.
Our paper was now published in Physical Review Letters: