We present a detailed study of the photoinduced insulator-metal transition in VO2 with broadband time-resolved reflection spectroscopy. This allows us to separate the response of the lattice vibrations from the electronic dynamics and observe their individual evolution. When we excite VO2 above the photoinduced phase transition threshold, we find that the restoring forces that describe the ground-state monoclinic structure are lost during the excitation process, suggesting that an ultrafast change in the lattice potential drives the structural transition. However, by performing a series of pump-probe measurements during the nonequilibrium transition, we observe that the electronic properties of the material evolve on a different, slower time scale. This separation of time scales suggests that the early state of VO2, immediately after photoexcitation, is a nonequilibrium state that is not well defined by either the insulating or the metallic phase.
The original publication is available by link DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevB.87.115126