Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Steven T. Cundiff

Second Advisor

Markus B. Raschke

Third Advisor

Daniel S. Dessau

Fourth Advisor

Richard P. Mirin

Fifth Advisor

Ralph Jimenez


Correlated electron-hole pairs, or excitons, in semiconductor nanostructures have been studied extensively over the past few decades. The optical response of excitons is complicated due to inhomogeneous broadening, presence of multiple states, and exciton-exciton interactions. In this work we bring new perspectives to exciton physics in semiconductor quantum wells (QWs) through two-dimensional coherent spectroscopy (2DCS).

The effect of QW growth direction on the optical properties of excitons is explored by studying (110)-oriented GaAs QWs. The homogeneous and inhomogeneous linewidths of the heavy-hole exciton resonance are measured. By probing the optical nonlinear response for polarization along the in-plane crystal axes [1-10] and [001], we measure different homogeneous linewidths for the two orthogonal directions. This difference is found to be due to anisotropic excitation-induced dephasing, caused by a crystal-axis-dependent absorption coefficient. The extrapolated zero-excitation density homogeneous linewidth exhibits an activation-like temperature dependence.

Spectral diffusion of excitons in (001)-oriented QWs has been studied. We show that the spectral diffusion characteristics depend strongly on the sample temperature. Spectral diffusion is generally assumed to follow the strong-redistribution approximation, partly because of lack of any evidence to the contrary. We find that this assumption is violated at low sample temperatures for excitons in QWs; high-energy excitons preferentially relax due to a negligible phonon population at low temperatures. The frequency-frequency correlation function is measured through a numerical fitting procedure to quantify spectral diffusion for sample temperatures $>20$ K.

Exciton-exciton interactions affect the light-matter interactions in QWs significantly. We present an intuitive and simple model for these interactions by treating excitons as interacting bosons. We show that the polarization-dependent exciton dephasing rate in GaAs quantum wells is due to the bosonic character of excitons. We fit slices from simulated spectra to those from the experimentally measured spectra and show that interference between two different quantum mechanical pathways results in a slower dephasing rate for co-circular and co-linear polarization of optical excitation pulses. This interference does not exist for cross-linearly polarized excitation pulses resulting in a faster dephasing rate. Additionally, we were able to separately quantify inter- and intra-mode interactions between excitons through exciton-density-dependent measurements.