The present invention includes a method for identifying and probing phase transitions in materials. A polymorphic material capable of existing in at least one non-centrosymmetric phase is interrogated with a beam of laser light at a chosen wavelength and frequency. A phase transition is induced in the material while it is interrogated. The intensity of light scattered by the material and having a wavelength equal to one half the wavelength of the interrogating laser light is detected. If the phase transition results in the production of a non-centrosymmetric phase, the intensity of this scattered light increases; if the phase transition results in the disappearance of a non-centrosymmetric phase, the intensity of this scattered light decreases.
This invention was made with government support under Contract No. W-7405-ENG-36 awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy to The Regents of the University of California. The U.S. government has certain rights in the invention.