Time-domain classification of charge-density-wave insulators

Nat Commun. 2012;3:1069. doi: 10.1038/ncomms2078.


Distinguishing insulators by the dominant type of interaction is a central problem in condensed matter physics. Basic models include the Bloch-Wilson and the Peierls insulator due to electron-lattice interactions, the Mott and the excitonic insulator caused by electron-electron interactions, and the Anderson insulator arising from electron-impurity interactions. In real materials, however, all the interactions are simultaneously present so that classification is often not straightforward. Here, we show that time- and angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy can directly measure the melting times of electronic order parameters and thus identify-via systematic temporal discrimination of elementary electronic and structural processes-the dominant interaction. Specifically, we resolve the debates about the nature of two peculiar charge-density-wave states in the family of transition-metal dichalcogenides, and show that Rb intercalated 1T-TaS(2) is a Peierls insulator and that the ultrafast response of 1T-TiSe(2) is highly suggestive of an excitonic insulator.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.