Ultrafast formation of a transient two-dimensional diamondlike structure in twisted bilayer graphene

D Luo and DD Hui and B Wen and RK Li and J Yang and XZ Shen and AH Reid and S Weathersby and ME Kozina and S Park and Y Ren and TD Loeffler and SKRS Sankaranarayanan and MKY Chan and X Wang and JS Tian and I Arslan and XJ Wang and T Rajh and JG Wen, PHYSICAL REVIEW B, 102, 155431 (2020).

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevB.102.155431

Due to the absence of matching carbon atoms at honeycomb centers with carbon atoms in adjacent graphene sheets, theorists predicted that a sliding process is needed to form AA, AB', or ABC stacking when directly converting graphite into sp(3) bonded diamond. Here, using twisted bilayer graphene, which naturally provides AA and AB' stacking configurations, we report the ultrafast formation of a transient two- dimensional diamondlike structure (which is not observed in aligned graphene) under femtosecond laser irradiation. This photoinduced phase transition is evidenced by the appearance of bond lengths of 1.94 and 3.14 angstrom in the time-dependent differential pair distribution function using MeV ultrafast electron diffraction. Molecular dynamics and first-principles calculation indicate that sp(3) bonds nucleate at AA and AB' stacked areas in a moire pattern. This work sheds light on the direct graphite-to-diamond transformation mechanism, which has not been fully understood for more than 60 years.

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