In the recently accepted paper in Physical Review Letter, Hrvoje Petek and his colleagues investigate the coherent electron transfer from an interface state that forms upon chemisorption of Ag nanoclusters onto graphite to a σ symmetry interlayer band of graphite. Interfacial charge transfer is a fundamental process in heterogeneous and plasmonically enhanced catalysis.
Hot electron processes at metallic heterojunctions are central to optical-to-chemical or electrical energy transduction. Ultrafast nonlinear photoexcitation of graphite (Gr) has been shown to create hot thermalized electrons at temperatures corresponding to the solar photosphere in less than 25 fs. Plasmonic resonances in metallic nanoparticles are also known to efficiently generate hot electrons. Here we deposit Ag nanoclusters (NC) on Gr to study the ultrafast hot electron generation and dynamics in their plasmonic heterojunctions by means of time-resolved two-photon photoemission (2PP) spectroscopy. By tuning the wavelength of p-polarized femtosecond excitation pulses, we find an enhancement of 2PP yields by 2 orders of magnitude, which we attribute to excitation of a surface-normal Mie plasmon mode of Ag/Gr heterojunctions at 3.6 eV. The 2PP spectra include contributions from (i) coherent two-photon absorption of an occupied interface state (IFS) 0.2 eV below the Fermi level, which electronic structure calculations assign to chemisorption-induced charge transfer, and (ii) hot electrons in the π*-band of Gr, which are excited through the coherent screening response of the substrate. Ultrafast pump–probe measurements show that the IFS photoemission occurs via virtual intermediate states, whereas the characteristic lifetimes attribute the hot electrons to population of the π*-band of Gr via the plasmon dephasing. Our study directly probes the mechanisms for enhanced hot electron generation and decay in a model plasmonic heterojunction.