Lutz Waldecker, Roman Bertoni, Ralph Ernstorfer, and Jan Vorberger:
Phys. Rev. X 6, 021003 (2016), pp. 11;
The electron-phonon coupling and the corresponding energy exchange are investigated experimentally and by ab initio theory in nonequilibrium states of the free-electron metal aluminium. The temporal evolution of the atomic mean-squared displacement in laser-excited thin freestanding films is monitored by femtosecond electron diffraction. The electron-phonon coupling strength is obtained for a range of electronic and lattice temperatures from density functional theory molecular dynamics simulations. The electron-phonon coupling parameter extracted from the experimental data in the framework of a two-temperature model (TTM) deviates significantly from the ab initio values. We introduce a nonthermal lattice model (NLM) for describing nonthermal phonon distributions as a sum of thermal distributions of the three phonon branches. The contributions of individual phonon branches to the electron-phonon coupling are considered independently and found to be dominated by longitudinal acoustic phonons. Using all material parameters from first-principles calculations except the phonon-phonon coupling strength, the prediction of the energy transfer from electrons to phonons by the NLM is in excellent agreement with time-resolved diffraction data. Our results suggest that the TTM is insufficient for describing the microscopic energy flow even for simple metals like aluminium and that the determination of the electron-phonon coupling constant from time-resolved experiments by means of the TTM leads to incorrect values. In contrast, the NLM describing transient phonon populations by three parameters appears to be a sufficient model for quantitatively describing electron-lattice equilibration in aluminium. We discuss the general applicability of the NLM and provide a criterion for the suitability of the two-temperature approximation for other metals.
The original publication is available by link DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevX.6.021003