Optical two-dimensional fourier transform spectroscopy of semiconductor quantum wells

Steven T Cundiff, Tianhao Zhang, Alan D Bristow, Denis Karaiskaj, Xingcan Dai
Accounts of Chemical Research 2009 September 15, 42 (9): 1423-32
Coherent light-matter interactions of direct-gap semiconductor nanostructures provide a great test system for fundamental research into quantum electronics and many-body physics. The understanding gained from studying these interactions can facilitate the design of optoelectronic devices. Recently, we have used optical two-dimensional Fourier-transform spectroscopy to explore coherent light-matter interactions in semiconductor quantum wells. Using three laser pulses to generate a four-wave-mixing signal, we acquire spectra by tracking the phase of the signal with respect to two time axes and then Fourier transforming them. In this Account, we show several two-dimensional projections and demonstrate techniques to isolate different contributions to the coherent response of semiconductors. The low-temperature spectrum of semiconductor quantum wells is dominated by excitons, which are electron-hole pairs bound through Coulombic interactions. Excitons are sensitive to their electronic and structural environment, which influences their optical resonance energies and line widths. In near perfect quantum wells, a small fluctuation of the quantum well thickness leads to spatial localization of the center-of-mass wave function of the excitons and inhomogeneous broadening of the optical resonance. The inhomogeneous broadening often masks the homogeneous line widths associated with the scattering of the excitons. In addition to forming excitons, Coulombic correlations also form excitonic molecules, called biexcitons. Therefore, the coherent response of the quantum wells encompasses the intra-action and interaction of both excitons and biexcitons in the presence of inhomogeneous broadening. Transient four-wave-mixing studies combined with microscopic theories have determined that many-body interactions dominate the strong coherent response from quantum wells. Although the numerous competing interactions cannot be easily separated in either the spectral or temporal domains, they can be separated using two-dimensional Fourier transform spectroscopy. The most common two-dimensional Fourier spectra are S(I)(omega(tau),T,omega(t)) in which the second time period is held fixed. The result is a spectrum that unfolds congested one-dimensional spectra, separates excitonic pathways, and shows which excitons are coherently coupled. This method also separates the biexciton contributions and isolates the homogeneous and inhomogeneous line widths. For semiconductor excitons, the line shape in the real part of the spectrum is sensitive to the many-body interactions, which we can suppress by exploiting polarization selection rules. In an alternative two-dimensional projection, S(I)(tau,omega(Tau),omega(t)), the nonradiative Raman coherent interactions are isolated. Finally, we show S(III)(tau,omega(Tau),omega(t)) spectra that isolate the two-quantum coherences associated with the biexciton. These spectra reveal previously unobserved many-body correlations.

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