Zuerch Lab
Zuerch Lab


Welcome to the

The Zuerch Lab at the University of California at Berkeley experimentally explores structural, carrier and spin dynamics in novel quantum materials, heterostructures and at material interfaces to answer current questions in materials science and physical chemistry. For this we pursue a multidisciplinary research program that combines the exquisite possibilities that ultrafast X-ray spectroscopy and nanoimaging offers and closely interface with material synthesis and theory groups. We employ state-of-the-art methods and develop novel nonlinear X-ray spectroscopies in our lab and at large-scale facilities. Specifically, we are interested in experimentally studying and controlling material properties on time scales down to the sub-femtosecond regime and on nanometer length scales to tackle challenging problems in quantum electronics, information storage and solar energy conversion.

Learn more about our research.

  • Zuerch Lab
  • Giauque Hall Ultrafast Materials Laboratory
  • Linear and Nonlinear Ultrafast X-ray Spectroscopy
  • Attosecond pulse generation and spectroscopy

    Latest news:

    New paper out: Time-Resolved X-ray Emission Spectroscopy and Resonant Inelastic X-ray Scattering Spectroscopy of Laser Irradiated Carbon
    Jun 22 2024

    Our latest research explores into the controversial intermediate liquid phase of carbon, a topic debated for decades. Using time-resolved resonant inelastic X-ray scattering (RIXS) and X-ray emission spectroscopy (XES), we studied amorphous carbon and ultrananocrystalline diamond under laser irradiation. Our findings indicate no evidence of a liquid state, instead revealing crystalline properties even under extreme conditions. Differences in signal behavior are attributed to variations in sample thickness and incomplete melting. This study enhances our understanding of carbon’s behavior under high-energy conditions, with significant implications for material science.

    The measurements were done at the PAL free-electron laser. This research was done in a larger collaboration led by Saykally and Schwartz.

    Journal publication in the Journal of Physical Chemistry B here: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/acs.jpcb.4c02862

    New pre-print: Hidden correlations in stochastic photoinduced dynamics of a solid-state electrolyte
    Jun 12 2024

    Photoexcitation by ultrashort laser pulses plays a crucial role in controlling reaction pathways, creating nonequilibrium material properties, and offering a microscopic view of complex dynamics at the molecular level. The photo response following a laser pulse is, in general, non-identical between multiple exposures due to spatiotemporal fluctuations in a material or the stochastic nature of dynamical pathways. However, most ultrafast experiments using a stroboscopic pump-probe scheme struggle to distinguish intrinsic sample fluctuations from extrinsic apparatus noise, often missing seemingly random deviations from the averaged shot-to-shot response. Leveraging the stability and high photon-flux of time-resolved X-ray micro-diffraction at a synchrotron, we developed a method to quantitatively characterize the shot-to-shot variation of the photoinduced dynamics in a solid-state electrolyte. By analyzing temporal evolutions of the lattice parameter of a single grain in a powder ensemble, we found that the sample responses after different shots contain random fluctuations that are, however, not independent. Instead, there is a correlation between the nonequilibrium lattice trajectories following adjacent laser shots with a characteristic “correlation length” of approximately 1,500 shots, which represents an energy barrier of 0.38~eV for switching the photoinduced pathway, a value interestingly commensurate with the activation energy of lithium ion diffusion. Not only does our nonequilibrium noise correlation spectroscopy provide a new strategy for studying fluctuations that are central to phase transitions in both condensed matter and molecular systems, it also paves the way for discovering hidden correlations and novel metastable states buried in oft-presumed random, uncorrelated fluctuating dynamics.

    The experimental work was done at the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory. This research is conducted in collaboration with the Cushing group at Caltech.

    Arxiv pre-print available here: https://arxiv.org/abs/2406.06832

    Michael named Rose Hills Innovator
    May 15 2024

    We are excited to announce that Michael has been named a Fellow in the Rose Hills Innovator Program. This accolade recognizes our project, “Quantum Crossroads: Unraveling the Mysteries of Exciton-Magnon-Phonon Interactions,” which aims to redefine the material foundations of technology through the lens of quantum mechanics. Our research investigates the intricate dynamics between excitons, magnons, and phonons within two-dimensional transition-metal phosphorous trisulfides. Leveraging our innovative cryogenic Time-Resolved Solid-State High-Harmonic Generation (TR-sHHG) technique, we explore these quantum interactions with unmatched resolution. This project not only seeks to expand our understanding of quantum phenomena but also to pioneer sustainable, high-performance materials for future computational technologies. This award propels us further towards uncovering new quantum mechanisms that could revolutionize energy efficiency and computational capabilities.

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