Physical Review B

Generation mechanism of terahertz coherent acoustic phonons in Fe

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We use femtosecond time-resolved hard x-ray scattering to detect coherent acoustic phonons generated during ultrafast laser excitation of ferromagnetic bcc Fe films grown on MgO(001). We observe the coherent longitudinal-acoustic phonons as a function of wave vector through analysis of the temporal oscillations in the x-ray scattering signal. The width of the extracted strain wave front associated with this coherent motion is ∼100 fs. An effective electronic Grüneisen parameter is extracted within a two-temperature model. However, ab initio calculations show that the phonons are nonthermal on the time scale of the experiment, which calls into question the validity of extracting physical constants by fitting such a two-temperature model.