Since dissipative processes are ubiquitous in semiconductors, characterizing how electronic and thermal energy transduce and transport at the nanoscale is vital for understanding and leveraging their fundamental properties. For example, in low-dimensional transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDCs), excess heat generation upon photoexcitation is difficult to avoid since even with modest injected exciton densities, exciton-exciton annihilation still occurs. Both heat and photoexcited electronic species imprint transient changes in the optical response of a semiconductor, yet the distinct signatures of each are difficult to disentangle in typical spectra due to overlapping resonances. In response, it is necessary to simultaneously map both heat and charge populations in materials on relevant nanometer and picosecond length- and time scales.
By further honing stroboSCAT, a time-resolved optical scattering microscopy capable of capturing spatiotemporal energy flow in a wide range of materials, a STROBE team from UC Berkeley collaborated with Caltech to map both heat and exciton populations in few-layer TMDC MoS2 on the relevant length- and time scales and with 100-mK temperature sensitivity. We discern excitonic contributions to the signal from heat by combining observations close to and far from exciton resonances, characterizing photoinduced dynamics for each. Our approach is general and can be applied to any electronic material, including thermoelectrics, where heat and electronic observables spatially interplay, and lays the groundwork for direct and quantitative discernment of different types of coexisting energy without recourse to complex models or underlying assumptions. This work illustrates the ability to, finally, simultaneously observe and distinguish photogenerated heat from charge in a broad range of systems critical to the performance of next-generation energy conversion modules.