Image of the Month

September 2017

Scanning Tunneling Microscopy Observation of Phonon Condensate

Figure 3. STM images of quasi-freestanding WSe2 islands. (a) STM image of 90 × 75 Å2 area of elevated
1 ML island obtained at 2 V sample bias. (b) Image of the same area at 3 V bias. (c) Cross-section of type-B (multi-ring) pattern from (a). (d) Cross-section of type-A (single-ring) pattern from (a). The STM cross- sections are oriented perpendicular to atomic rows, and the horizontal axes are normalized to a0. The central minima in (c,d) have slightly different shapes due to different contributions of cosine modes (see Discussion part and Supplementary Note 2). (e) The larger scale, 260 × 260 Å2, STM image of phonon interference patterns on elevated 1 ML island. The image uses gradient contrast. One of type-B and one of type-A patterns are schematically surrounded by dotted lines. For gradient contrast, the missing half-rings are less visible. Bright- contrast features originate from residual contaminating particles. (Left inset) The left inset shows different absorption sites for defects, H-site vs. TM-site, that may also cause type-A vs. type-B standing wave patterns. (Right inset) STM image in the right inset clarifies the horizontal axis units in (c,d) and the orientation of crystal axes in (a,b,e). The pattern on this STM image (surrounded by dotted line type-C pattern) only contains a broad central minimum.

Using quantum tunneling of electrons into vibrating surface atoms, phonon oscillations can be observed on the atomic scale. Phonon interference patterns with unusually large signal amplitudes have been revealed by scanning tunneling microscopy in intercalated van der Waals heterostructures. Our results show that the effective radius of these phonon quasi-bound states, the real-space distribution of phonon standing wave amplitudes, the scattering phase shifts, and the nonlinear intermode coupling strongly depend on the presence of defect-induced scattering resonance. The observed coherence of these quasi-bound states most likely arises from phase- and frequency-synchronized dynamics of
all phonon modes, and indicates the formation of many-body condensate of optical phonons around resonant defects. We found that increasing the strength of the scattering resonance causes the increase of the condensate droplet radius without affecting the condensate fraction inside it. The condensate can be observed at room temperature.

Scientific Reports 7 (2017): 43214

Igor Altfeder1, Andrey A. Voevodin1,2, Michael H. Check1, Sarah M. Eichfeld3, Joshua A. Robinson3 & Alexander V. Balatsky4,5

1Nanoelectronic Materials Branch, Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright Patterson AFB, OH 45433, USA.
2Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas 76203, USA.
3Department of Materials Science and Engineering and The Center for Two-Dimensional and Layered Materials, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA.
4Institute for Materials Science, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM 87545, USA.
5Nordita, Center for Quantum Materials, KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Stockholm University, Roslagstullsbacken 23, 10691 Stockholm, Sweden. Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to I.A. (email:

UHV Beetle 300 STM