Transient Rayleigh Scattering: A New Probe of Picosecond Carrier Dynamics in a Single Semiconductor Nanowire

Using a new technique, transient Rayleigh scattering, we show that measurements from a single GaAs/AlGaAs core–shell semiconductor nanowire provide sensitive and detailed information on the time evolution of the density and temperature of the electrons and holes after photoexcitation by an intense laser pulse. Through band filling, band gap renormalization, and plasma screening, the presence of a dense and hot electron–hole plasma directly influences the real and imaginary parts of the complex index of refraction that in turn affects the spectral dependence of the Rayleigh scattering cross-section in well-defined ways. By measuring this spectral dependence as a function of time, we directly determine the thermodynamically independent density and temperature of the electrons and holes as a function of time after pulsed excitation as the carriers thermalize to the lattice temperature. We successfully model the results by including ambipolar transport, recombination, and cooling through optic and acoustic phonon emission that quantify the hole mobility at ∼68,000 cm2/V·s, linear decay constant at 380 ps, bimolecular recombination rate at 4.8 × 10–9 cm3/s and the energy-loss rate of plasma due to optical and acoustic phonon emission.