Collapse of layer dimerization in the photo-induced hidden state of 1T-TaS2
Date & Facts
Photo-induced switching between collective quantum states of matter is a fascinating rising field with exciting opportunities for novel technologies. Presently, very intensively studied examples in this regard are nanometer-thick single crystals of the layered material 1T-TaS2, where picosecond laser pulses can trigger a fully reversible insulator-to-metal transition (IMT). This IMT is believed to be connected to the switching between metastable collective quantum states, but the microscopic nature of this so-called hidden quantum state remained largely elusive up to now. Here, we characterize the hidden quantum state of 1T-TaS2 by means of state-of-the-art x-ray diffraction and show that the laser-driven IMT involves a marked rearrangement of the charge and orbital order in the direction perpendicular to the TaS2-layers. More specifically, we identify the collapse of interlayer molecular orbital dimers as a key mechanism for this non-thermal collective transition between two truly long-range ordered electronic crystals.