During the past decade, perturbed-angular-correlation (PAC) spectroscopy has emerged as an important technique in several areas of materials science. PAC spectroscopy is used to measure the effects of local fields at well-defined lattice sites in a crystal. These measurements can provide unique information about the structures, kinetics, and energetics associated with point defects, the mechanisms of phase transitions, and the strengths and symmetries of chemical bonds of atoms on surfaces and at interfaces. In what follows, I describe the PAC technique in the context of several examples of these applications and I comment on the historical evolution of this spectroscopy.
The field of hyperfine interactions encompasses spectroscopic techniques that use the electric and magnetic nuclear moments to measure the specific extranuclear environment of the nuclear moments. Examples of these techniques are nuclear-magnetic-resonance (NMR), nuclear-quadrupole-resonance (NQR), electron-paramagnetic-resonance (EPA), muon-spin-rotation (MSR), Mössbauer-effect (ME), and perturbed-angular-correlation (PAC) spectroscopies. Each of these techniques is well-suited to certain types of measurements but useless for others. For example, NMR spectroscopy can be particularly useful for measuring chemical shifts associated with nuclei of atoms that are major constituents of crystalline solids. However, nuclear electricquadrupole interactions associated with some NMR-active nuclei are not only difficult to measure but they often obscure much of the chemical-shift information by producing spectral-line broadening. PAC spectroscopy can be used to accurately measure the nuclear electric-quadrupole interactions at the sites of nuclei of atoms that are trace dopants in crystals. But the PAC technique is insensitive to the effects of local charge distributions that produce the NMR chemical shifts. ME spectroscopy can be used to measure both of these effects as well as nuclear magnetic-dipole interactions. However, ME measurements are often only practical on crystals that have one of several elements as a major constituent, that is, either Fe or Sn. In addition, the ME sensitivity depends on temperature, and the NMR and EPR sensitivities also depend on temperature. However, the PAC measurement is independent of temperature, which can be a great advantage for studying phenomena such as phase transitions.