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American Institute of Physics


Ultrafast experiments using sub-picosecond pulses of light are poised to play an important role in the study and use of topological materials and, particularly, of the three-dimensional Dirac and Weyl semimetals. Many of these materials’ characteristic properties—their linear band dispersion, Berry curvature, near-vanishing density of states at the Fermi energy, and sensitivity to crystalline and time-reversal symmetries—are closely related to their sub- and few-picosecond response to light. Ultrafast measurements offer the opportunity to explore excitonic instabilities and transient photocurrents, the latter depending on the Berry curvature and possibly quantized by fundamental constants. Optical pulses may, through Floquet effects, controllably and reversibly move, split, merge, or gap the materials’ Dirac and Weyl nodes; coherent phonons launched by an ultrafast pulse offer alternate mechanisms for similar control of the nodal structure. This Perspective will briefly summarize the state of research on the ultrafast properties of Dirac and Weyl semimetals, emphasizing important open questions. It will describe the challenges confronting each of these experimental opportunities and suggest what research is needed for ultrafast pulses to achieve their potential of controlling and illuminating the physics of Dirac and Weyl semimetals.


This article may be downloaded for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the author and AIP Publishing. This article appeared in Weber, C. P. (2021). Ultrafast investigation and control of Dirac and Weyl semimetals. Journal of Applied Physics, 129(7), 070901 and may be found at

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