Elucidating ultrafast electron dynamics at surfaces using extreme ultraviolet (XUV) reflection–absorption spectroscopy
Here we review the recent development of extreme ultraviolet reflection–absorption (XUV-RA) spectroscopy. This method combines the benefits of X-ray absorption spectroscopy, such as element, oxidation, and spin state specificity, with surface sensitivity and ultrafast time resolution, having a probe depth of only a few nm and an instrument response less than 100 fs. Using this technique we investigated the ultrafast electron dynamics at a hematite (α-Fe2O3) surface. Surface electron trapping and small polaron formation both occur in 660 fs following photoexcitation. These kinetics are independent of surface morphology indicating that electron trapping is not mediated by defects. Instead, small polaron formation is proposed as the likely driving force for surface electron trapping. We also show that in Fe2O3, Co3O4, and NiO, band gap excitation promotes electron transfer from O 2p valence band states to metal 3d conduction band states. In addition to detecting the photoexcited electron at the metal M2,3-edge, the valence band hole is directly observed as transient signal at the O L1-edge. The size of the resulting charge transfer exciton is on the order of a single metal–oxygen bond length. Spectral shifts at the O L1-edge correlate with metal–oxygen bond covalency, confirming the relationship between valence band hybridization and the overpotential for water oxidation. These examples demonstrate the unique ability to measure ultrafast electron dynamics with element and chemical state resolution using XUV-RA spectroscopy. Accordingly, this method is poised to play an important role to reveal chemical details of previously unseen surface electron dynamics.