Are diamonds really forever? Does diamond survive irradiation by X-ray laser?


We studied experimentally and theoretically the structural transition of diamond under an irradiation with an intense femtosecond extreme ultraviolet laser (XUV) pulse of 24–275 eV photon energy provided by free-electron lasers. Experimental results obtained showed that the irradiated diamond undergoes a solid-to-solid phase transition to graphite, and not to an amorphous state. Our theoretical findings suggest that the nature of this transition is nonthermal, stimulated by a change of the interatomic potential triggered by the excitation of valence electrons. Ultrashort laser pulse duration enables to identify the subsequent steps of this process: electron excitation, band gap collapse, and the following atomic motion. A good agreement between the experimentally measured and theoretically calculated damage thresholds for the XUV range supports our conclusions.

Local defects in diamond caused by focused XUV FEL pulse depicted by Nomarski DIC (differential interference contrast) microscopy.