In this work, we investigate the effects of the V2O3 structural phase transition on the magnetic properties of an amorphous magnetic thin film of CoFeB in contact with it. V2O3 thin films are deposited epitaxially on sapphire substrates, reaching bulklike properties after few nm of growth. By means of temperature dependent Kerr effect characterizations, we prove that crossing the V2O3 structural phase transition induces reproducible and reversible changes to CoFeB magnetic properties, especially to its coercive field. By decreasing the oxide layer thickness, its effects on the magnetic layer decreases, while reducing the magnetic layer thickness maximizes it, with a maximum of 330% coercive field variation found between the two V2O3 structural phases. By simply tuning the temperature, this systematic study shows that the engineering of V2O3 structural transition induces large interfacial strain and thus strong magnetic property variations to an amorphous thin film, opening wide possibilities in implementing strain-driven control of the magnetic behavior without strict requirements on epitaxial coherence at the interface.
Research on ultrathin quantum materials requires full control of the growth and surface quality of the specimens in order to perform experiments on their atomic structure and electron states leading to ultimate analysis of their intrinsic properties. We report results on epitaxial FeSe thin films grown by pulsed laser deposition (PLD) on CaF2 (001) substrates as obtained by exploiting the advantages of an all-in-situ ultra-high vacuum (UHV) laboratory allowing for direct high-resolution surface analysis by scanning tunnelling microscopy (STM), synchrotron radiation X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy (ARPES) on fresh surfaces. FeSe PLD growth protocols were fine-tuned by optimizing target-to-substrate distance d and ablation frequency, atomically flat terraces with unit-cell step heights are obtained, overcoming the spiral morphology often observed by others. In-situ ARPES with linearly polarized horizontal and vertical radiation shows hole-like and electron-like pockets at the Γ and M points of the Fermi surface, consistent with previous observations on cleaved single crystal surfaces. The control achieved in growing quantum materials with volatile elements such as Se by in-situ PLD makes it possible to address the fine analysis of the surfaces by in-situ ARPES and XPS. The study opens wide avenues for the PLD based heterostructures as work-bench for the understanding of proximity-driven effects and for the development of prospective devices based on combinations of quantum materials.
Quantum materials are central for the development of novel functional systems that are often based on interface-specific phenomena. Fabricating controlled interfaces between quantum materials requires adopting a flexible growth technique capable to synthesize different materials within a single-run deposition process with high control of structure, stoichiometry, and termination. Among the various available thin film growth technologies, Pulsed Laser Deposition (PLD) allows controlling the growth of diverse materials at the level of single atomic layers. In PLD the atomic species are supplied through an ablation process of a stoichiometric target either in form of polycrystalline powders or of a single crystal. No carrier gases are needed in the deposition process. The ablation process is compatible with a wide range of background pressure. We present results of thin-film growth by Pulsed Laser Deposition obtained by using an Nd:YAG infrared (IR) pulsed laser source operating at its 1st harmonics. With respect to the traditional PLD systems - based on excimer KrF UV-lasers - optimal conditions for the growth of thin films and heterostructures are reached at a large target-to-substrate distance. Merits and limitations of this approach for growing oxide and non-oxide thin films are discussed. The merits of Nd:YAG laser to grow very high-quality thin films suggest the possibility of implementing compact in-situ setups e.g. integrated with analytical instrumentation under UHV conditions.
Perovskite-based heterostructures have recently gained remarkable interest, thanks to atomic-scale precision engineering. These systems are very susceptible to small variations of control parameters, such as two-dimensionality, strain, lattice polarizability, and doping. Focusing on the rare-earth nickelate diagram, LaNiO3 (LNO) catches the eye, being the only nickelate that does not undergo a metal-to-insulator transition (MIT). Therefore, the ground state of LNO has been studied in several theoretical and experimental papers. Here, we show by means of infrared spectroscopy that an MIT can be driven by dimensionality control in ultrathin LNO films when the number of unit cells drops to 2. Such a dimensionality tuning can eventually be tailored when a physically implemented monolayer in the ultrathin films is replaced by a digital single layer embedded in the Ruddlesden–Popper Lan+1NinO3n+1 series. We provide spectroscopic evidence that the dimensionality-induced MIT in Ruddlesden–Popper nickelates strongly resembles that of ultrathin LNO films. Our results can pave the way to the employment of Ruddlesden–Popper Lan+1NinO3n+1 to tune the electronic properties of LNO through dimensional transition without the need of physically changing the number of unit cells in thin films.
Solid oxide photoelectrochemical cells (SOPECs) with inorganic ion-conducting electrolytes provide an alternative solution for light harvesting and conversion. Exploring potential photoelectrodes for SOPECs and understanding their operation mechanisms are crucial for continuously developing this technology. Here, ceria-based thin films were newly explored as photoelectrodes for SOPEC applications. It was found that the photoresponse of ceria-based thin films can be tuned both by Sm-doping-induced defects and by the heating temperature of SOPECs. The whole process was found to depend on the surface electrochemical redox reactions synergistically with the bulk photoelectric effect. Samarium doping level can selectively switch the open-circuit voltages polarity of SOPECs under illumination, thus shifting the potential of photoelectrodes and changing their photoresponse. The role of defect chemistry engineering in determining such a photoelectrochemical process was discussed. Transient absorption and X-ray photoemission spectroscopies, together with the state-of-the-art in operando X-ray absorption spectroscopy, allowed us to provide a compelling explanation of the experimentally observed switching behavior on the basis of the surface reactions and successive charge balance in the bulk.
In this work, we present an investigation on the effects of thermal annealing on the magnetic response of Lithium Niobate/Fe samples. Fe thin films have been deposited on Lithium Niobate Z-cut ferroelectric substrates by vapor phase epitaxy. A series of annealing treatments were performed on the samples, monitoring the evolution of their magnetic properties, both at the surface and on the volume. The combination of structural, magnetic, chemical and morphological characterizations shows that the modification of the chemical properties, i.e. the phase decomposition, of the substrate upon annealing affects drastically the magnetic behavior of the interfacial Fe layer. By tuning the annealing temperature, the magnetic coercive field value can be increased by an order of magnitude compared to the as-grown value, keeping the same in-plane isotropic behavior. Since no evident differences were recorded in the Fe layer from the chemical point of view, we attribute the origin of this effect to an intermixing process between a fragment of the substrate and the Fe thin film upon critical temperature annealing, process that is also is responsible for the observed changes in roughness and morphology of the magnetic thin film.
A ferromagnetic (FM) thin film deposited on a substrate of Pb(Mg1/3Nb2/3)O3−PbTiO3 (PMN-PT) is an appealing heterostructure for the electrical control of magnetism, which would enable nonvolatile memories with ultralow-power consumption. Reversible and electrically controlled morphological changes at the surface of PMN-PT suggest that the magnetoelectric effects are more complex than the commonly used “strain-mediated” description. Here we show that changes in substrate morphology intervene in magnetoelectric coupling as a key parameter interplaying with strain. Magnetic-sensitive microscopy techniques are used to study magnetoelectric coupling in Fe/PMN-PT at different length scales, and compare different substrate cuts. The observed rotation of the magnetic anisotropy is connected to the changes in morphology, and mapped in the crack pattern at the mesoscopic scale. Ferroelectric polarization switching induces a magnetic field-free rotation of the magnetic domains at micrometer scale, with a wide distribution of rotation angles. Our results show that the relationship between the rotation of the magnetic easy axis and the rotation of the in-plane component of the electric polarization is not straightforward, as well as the relationship between ferroelectric domains and crack pattern. The understanding and control of this phenomenon is crucial to develop functional devices based on FM/PMN-PT heterostructures.
The study of ionic materials on nanometer scale is of great relevance for efficient miniaturized devices for energy applications. The epitaxial growth of thin films can be a valid route to tune the properties of the materials and thus obtain new degrees of freedom in materials design. High crystal quality SmxCe1-xO2-δ films are here reported at high doping level up to x=0.4, thanks to the good lat-tice matching with the (110) oriented NdGaO3 substrate. X-ray diffraction and transmission electron microscopy demonstrate the ordered structural quality and absence of Sm segregation at macroscopic and atomic level, respectively. Therefore, in epitaxial thin films the homogeneous doping can be obtained even with high dopant content not always approachable in bulk form, getting even an improvement of the structural properties. In situ spectroscopic measurements by x-ray photoemission and x-ray absorption show the O 2p band shift towards the Fermi level which can favor the oxygen exchange and vacancy formation on the surface when the Sm doping is increased to x=0.4. X-ray absorption spectroscopy also confirms the absence of ordered oxygen vacancy clusters and further reveals that the 5d eg and t2g states are well separated by the crystal field in the undistorted local structure even in the case of high doping level x=0.4.
This thesis is focused the structural and spectroscopic characterization of multiferroic heterostructures composed of a thin film of iron, which is ferromagnetic, deposited on a bulk PMN-PT ([Pb(Mg1/3Nb2/3)O3]1−x–[PbTiO3]x) substrate, which is ferroelectric. The epitaxially grown interface between two mate-rials displays the magnetoelectric coupling. By applying an electric field across the thickness of the substrate (i.e. along the growth direction) it is possible to polarize and deform the ferroelectric crystal structure, thus manipulating the magnetic properties of the over-layer. In this work, we analyse how the two opposite polarized states of the PMN-PT affect the magnetic anisotropy of the iron overlayer and the role of morphology in this modifications. In particular the morphology represents an important factor in the magnetoelectric mechanisms that has been little investigated before.
The discovery of 2D conductivity at the LaAlO3/SrTiO3 interface has been linking, for over a decade, two of the major current research fields in materials science: correlated transition‐metal‐oxide systems and low‐dimensional systems. Notably, despite the 2D nature of the interfacial electron gas, the samples are 3D objects with thickness in the mm range. This prevented researchers so far from adopting strategies that are only viable for fully 2D materials, or from effectively exploiting degrees of freedom related to strain, strain gradient and curvature. Here a method based on pure strain engineering for obtaining freestanding LaAlO3/SrTiO3 membranes with micrometer lateral dimensions is demonstrated. Detailed transmission electron microscopy investigations show that the membranes are fully epitaxial and that their curvature results in a huge strain gradient, each layer showing a mixed compressive/tensile strain state. Electronic devices are fabricated by realizing ad hoc circuits for individual micro‐membranes transferred on silicon chips. The samples exhibit metallic conductivity and electrostatic field effect like 2D‐electron systems in bulk heterostructures. The results open a new path for adding oxide functionalities into semiconductor electronics, potentially allowing for ultra‐low voltage gating of a superconducting transistors, micromechanical control of the 2D electron gas mediated by ferroelectricity and flexoelectricity, and on‐chip straintronics.
Oxygen vacancies are known to play a crucial role in tuning the physical properties and technological applications of titanium dioxide TiO2. Over the last decades, defects in substoichiometric TiO2 have been commonly associated with the formation of TinO2n–x Magnéli phases, which are extended planar defects originating from crystallographic shear planes. By combining advanced transmission electron microscopy techniques, electron energy-loss spectroscopy and atomistic simulations, we reach new understanding of the oxygen vacancy induced structural modulations in anatase, ruling out the earlier shear-plane model. Structural modulations are instead shown to be due to the formation of oxygen vacancy superstructures that extend periodically inside the films, preserving the crystalline order of anatase. Elucidating the structure of oxygen defects in anatase is a crucial step for improving the functionalities of such material system and to engineer devices with targeted properties.
Here, we present an integrated ultra-high vacuum apparatus—named MBE-Cluster —dedicated to the growth and in situ structural, spectroscopic, and magnetic characterization of complex materials. Molecular Beam Epitaxy (MBE) growth of metal oxides, e.g., manganites, and deposition of the patterned metallic layers can be fabricated and in situ characterized by reflection high-energy electron diffraction, low-energy electron diffraction, Auger electron spectroscopy, x-ray photoemission spectroscopy, and azimuthal longitudinal magneto-optic Kerr effect. The temperature can be controlled in the range from 5 K to 580 K, with the possibility of application of magnetic fields H up to ±7 kOe and electric fields E for voltages up to ±500 V. The MBE-Cluster operates for in-house research as well as user facility in combination with the APE beamlines at Sincrotrone-Trieste and the high harmonic generator facility for time-resolved spectroscopy.
The electronic properties of strontium ruthenate SrRuO3perovskite oxide thin filmsare modified by epitaxial strain, as determined by growing on different substrates by pulsedlaser deposition. Temperature dependence of the transport properties indicates that tensilestrain deformation of the SrRuO3unit cell reduces the metallicity of the material as well as itsmetal-insulator-transition (MIT) temperature. On the contrary, the shrinkage of the Ru–O–Rubuckling angle due to compressive strain is counterweighted by the increased overlap of theconduction Ru-4d orbitals with the O-2p ones due to the smaller interatomic distances resulting intoan increased MIT temperature, i.e., a more conducting material. In particular, in the more metallicsamples, the core level X-ray photoemission spectroscopy lineshapes show the occurrence of anextra-peak at the lower binding energies of the main Ru-3d peak that is attributed to screening,as observed in volume sensitive photoemission of the unstrained material.
Out-of-plane Ga2Se3 nanowires are grown by molecular beam epitaxy via Au-assisted heterovalent exchange reaction on GaAs substrates in the absence of Ga deposition. It is shown that at a suitable temperature around 560 degrees C the Audecorated GaAs substrate releases Ga atoms, which react with the incoming Se and feed the nanowire growth. The nanowire composition, crystal structure, and morphology are characterized by Raman spectroscopy and electron microscopy. The growth mechanism is investigated by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. We explore the growth parameter window and find an interesting effect of shortening of the nanowires after a certain maximum length. The nanowire growth is described within a diffusion transport model, which explains the nonmonotonic behavior of the nanowire length versus the growth parameters. Nanowire shortening is explained by the blocking of Ga supply from the GaAs substrate by thick, in-plane worm-like Ga2Se3 structures, which grow concomitantly with the nanowires, followed by backward diffusion of Ga atoms from the nanowires down to the substrate surface.
Ambient pressure operando soft X-ray absorption spectroscopy (soft-XAS) was applied to study the reactivity of hydroxylated SnO2 nanoparticles towards reducing gases. H2 was first used as a test case, showing that gas phase and surface states can be simultaneously probed: soft-XAS at the O K-edge gains sensitivity towards the gas phase, while at the Sn M4,5-edges tin surface states are explicitly probed. Results obtained by flowing hydrocarbons (CH4 and CH3CHCH2) unequivocally show that these gases react with surface hydroxyl groups to produce water without producing carbon oxides, and release electrons that localize on Sn to eventually form SnO. The partially reduced SnO2-x layer at the surface of SnO2 is readily reoxidised to SnO2 by treating the sample with O2 at mild temperatures (> 200 °C), revealing the nature of “electron sponge” of tin oxide. The experiments, combined with DFT calculations, allowed devising a mechanism for dissociative hydrocarbon adsorption on SnO2, involving direct reduction of Sn sites at the surface via cleavage of C-H bonds, and the formation of methoxy- and/or methyl-tin species at the surface.
Bulk PtSn4 has recently attracted the interest of the scientific community for the presence of electronic states exhibiting Dirac node arcs, enabling possible applications in nanoelectronics. Here, by means of surface-science experiments and density functional theory, we assess its suitability for catalysis by studying the chemical reactivity of the (0 1 0)-oriented PtSn4 surface toward CO, H2O, O2 molecules at room temperature and, moreover, its stability in air. We demonstrate that the catalytic activity of PtSn4 is determined by the composition of the outermost atomic layer. Specifically, we find that the surface termination for PtSn4 crystals cleaved in vacuum is an atomic Sn layer, which is totally free from any CO poisoning. In oxygen-rich environment, as well as in ambient atmosphere, the surface termination is a SnOx skin including SnO and SnO2 in comparable amount. However, valence-band states, including those forming Dirac node arcs, are only slightly affected by surface modifications. The astonishingly beneficial influence of surface oxidation on catalytic activity has been demonstrated by electrocatalytic tests evidencing a reduction of the Tafel slope, from 442 down to 86 mV dec−1, whose origin has been explained by our theoretical model. The use of surface-science tools to tune the chemical reactivity of PtSn4 opens the way toward its effective use in catalysis, especially for hydrogen evolution reaction and oxygen evolution reaction.
The local atomic structure and the magnetic response of Co films intercalated between Graphene and Ir(111) were investigated combining polarized X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy at the Co K edge with Magneto-Optic Kerr Effect. The structural and magnetic evolution upon a 500 °C annealing was evaluated as a function of the film thickness. After the thermal treatment, our thick film (10 monolayers) presented a lower perpendicular magnetic anisotropy (PMA) as well as a reduced average structural disorder. On the other hand, in our thin film (5 monolayers), the annealing enhanced the perpendicular magnetic response and induced a local anisotropy by stretching the Co-Co bonds in the film plane and compressing those outside the plane. Our finding emphasizes the close relationship between the local structure of Co within the film and its magnetic properties.
Palladium ditelluride (PdTe2) is a novel transition‐metal dichalcogenide exhibiting type‐II Dirac fermions and topological superconductivity. To assess its potential in technology, its chemical and thermal stability is investigated by means of surface‐science techniques, complemented by density functional theory, with successive implementation in electronics, specifically in a millimeter‐wave receiver. While water adsorption is energetically unfavorable at room temperature, due to a differential Gibbs free energy of ≈+12 kJ mol−1, the presence of Te vacancies makes PdTe2 surfaces unstable toward surface oxidation with the emergence of a TeO2 skin, whose thickness remains sub‐nanometric even after one year in air. Correspondingly, the measured photocurrent of PdTe2‐based optoelectronic devices shows negligible changes (below 4%) in a timescale of one month, thus excluding the need of encapsulation in the nanofabrication process. Remarkably, the responsivity of a PdTe2‐based millimeter‐wave receiver is 13 and 21 times higher than similar devices based on black phosphorus and graphene in the same operational conditions, respectively. It is also discovered that pristine PdTe2 is thermally stable in a temperature range extending even above 500 K, thus paving the way toward PdTe2‐based high‐temperature electronics. Finally, it is shown that the TeO2 skin, formed upon air exposure, can be removed by thermal reduction via heating in vacuum.
Magnetism in monolayer (ML) VSe2 has attracted broad interest in spintronics, while existing reports have not reached consensus. Using element-specific X-ray magnetic circular dichroism, a magnetic transition in ML VSe2 has been demonstrated at the contamination-free interface between Co and VSe2. Through interfacial hybridization with a Co atomic overlayer, a magnetic moment of about 0.4 μB per V atom in ML VSe2 is revealed, approaching values predicted by previous theoretical calculations. Promotion of the ferromagnetism in ML VSe2 is accompanied by its antiferromagnetic coupling to Co and a reduction in the spin moment of Co. In comparison to the absence of this interface-induced ferromagnetism at the Fe/ML MoSe2 interface, these findings at the Co/ML VSe2 interface provide clear proof that the ML VSe2, initially with magnetic disorder, is on the verge of magnetic transition.
Combining first‐principles calculations with synchrotron‐based X‐ray photoelectron spectroscopy, the surface chemical reactivity of VSe2 single crystals toward oxygen, water, and air is assessed. It is found that the pristine, undefected surface is inert toward oxygen and water adsorption. The presence of Se defects drastically changes the surface reactivity. Specifically, water adsorption at room temperature is dissociative and mainly localized at Se vacancies. In contrast, surface oxidation is achieved only after long‐term air exposure (1 month). These results are crucial to assess the surface stability in ambient environment in the prospect of VSe2‐based applications.
Monolayer VSe2, featuring both charge density wave and magnetism phenomena, represents a unique van der Waals magnet in the family of metallic 2D transition‐metal dichalcogenides (2D‐TMDs). Herein, by means of in situ microscopy and spectroscopic techniques, including scanning tunneling microscopy/spectroscopy, synchrotron X‐ray and angle‐resolved photoemission, and X‐ray absorption, direct spectroscopic signatures are established, that identify the metallic 1T‐phase and vanadium 3d1 electronic configuration in monolayer VSe2 grown on graphite by molecular‐beam epitaxy. Element‐specific X‐ray magnetic circular dichroism, complemented with magnetic susceptibility measurements, further reveals monolayer VSe2 as a frustrated magnet, with its spins exhibiting subtle correlations, albeit in the absence of a long‐range magnetic order down to 2 K and up to a 7 T magnetic field. This observation is attributed to the relative stability of the ferromagnetic and antiferromagnetic ground states, arising from its atomic‐scale structural features, such as rotational disorders and edges. The results of this study extend the current understanding of metallic 2D‐TMDs in the search for exotic low‐dimensional quantum phenomena, and stimulate further theoretical and experimental studies on van der Waals monolayer magnets.
We report on the reproducible surface topological electron states in Bi2Se3 topological insulator thin films when epitaxially grown by Pulsed Laser Deposition (PLD) on (0 0 1)-oriented SrTiO3 (STO) perovskite substrates. Bi2Se3 has been reproducibly grown with single (0 0 1)-orientation and low surface roughness as controlled by ex-situ X-ray diffraction and in situ scanning tunnel microscopy and low-energy electron diffraction. Finally, in situ synchrotron radiation angle-resolved photo-emission spectroscopy measurements show a single Dirac cone and Dirac point at eV located in the center of the Brillouin zone likewise found from exfoliated single-crystals. These results demonstrate that the topological surface electron properties of PLD-grown Bi2Se3 thin films grown on (0 0 1)-oriented STO substrates open new perspectives for applications of multi-layered materials based on oxide perovskites.
Converse magnetoelectric coupling in artificial multiferroics is generally modeled through three possible mechanisms: charge transfer, strain mediated effects or ion migration. Here the role played by electrically controlled morphological modifications on the ferromagnetic response of a multiferroic heterostructure, specifically FexMn1−x ferromagnetic films on piezoferroelectric PMN‐PT  substrates, is discussed. The substrates present, in correspondence to electrical switching, fully reversible morphological changes at the surface, to which correspond reproducible modifications of the ferromagnetic response of the FexMn1−x films. Topographic analysis by atomic force microscopy shows the formation of surface cracks (up to 100 nm in height) upon application of a sufficiently high positive electric field (up to 6 kV cm−1). The cracks disappear after application of negative electric field of the same magnitude. Correspondingly, in operando X‐ray magnetic circular dichroic spectroscopy at Fe edge in FexMn1−x layers and micro‐MOKE measurements show local variations in the intensity of the dichroic signal and in the magnetic anisotropy as a function of the electrically driven morphological state. This morphologic parameter, rarely explored in literature, directly affects the ferromagnetic response of the system. Its proof of electrically reversible modification of the magnetic response adds a new possibility in the design of electrically controlled magnetic devices.
Cu2ZnSnS4 (CZTS) nanocrystals (NCs) were produced via hot-injection from metal chloride precursors. A systematic investigation of the influence of synthesis conditions on composition, size and microstructure of CZTS NCs is presented. The results show that the solvent amount (oleylamine) is a key parameter in the synthesis of this quaternary chalcogenide: a low solvent content leads to CZTS NCs with a prominent kesterite phase with the desired composition for use as absorber material in thin film photovoltaic cells. It is also observed that lowering the injection temperature (250 °C) favours formation of CZTS NCs in the wurtzite phase. The effect of different high temperature thermal treatments on the grain growth is also shown: large crystals are obtained with annealing in inert atmosphere, whereas nanocrystalline films are obtained introducing sulphur vapour during the heat treatment. A correlation between the grain dimension and the carbonaceous residues in the final films is investigated. It is shown that the grain growth is hindered by organic residues, amount and nature of which depend on the heat treatment atmosphere. In fact, oleylamine is removed by a complex pyrolytic process, which is affected by the presence of sulphur vapour. The latter favours the stability of oleylamine residuals against its non-oxidative release.
By performing density functional theory and Green's functions calculations, complemented by x-ray photoemission spectroscopy, we investigate the electronic structure of Fe/GeTe(111), a prototypical ferromagnetic/Rashba-ferroelectric interface. We reveal that such a system exhibits several intriguing properties resulting from the complex interplay of exchange interaction, electric polarization, and spin-orbit coupling. Despite a rather strong interfacial hybridization between Fe and GeTe bands, resulting in a complete suppression of the surface states of the latter, the bulk Rashba bands are hardly altered by the ferromagnetic overlayer. This could have a deep impact on spin-dependent phenomena observed at this interface, such as spin-to-charge interconversion, which are likely to involve bulk rather than surface Rashba states.
This thesis contains a selection of the results on the shallow electron states of quantum materials that I obtained as doctoral student of the Scuola di Dottorato in Fisica, Astrofisica e Fisica Applicata at the Università degli Studi di Milano. I carried out my doctoral research activity mostly at the TASC-IOM CNR laboratory, in the framework of the NFFA and APE-beamline facilities (Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste), as well in dedicated sessions at the I2; beamline of the Diamond light source, Harwell Campus, UK. To access the electronic properties of materials I specialised myself in photoemission spectroscopy techniques. High quality samples are a prerequisite for any attempt to study quantum materials so that a major effort in my PhD project has been to master the growth of novel quantum materials by means of Pulsed Laser Deposition (PLD). Given that the PLD is integrated in the suite of UHV facilities attached in-situ to the APE beamline, I directly characterised the electronic properties of the PLD grown samples exploiting both the spectroscopic techniques available at the beamline (ARPES, X-ray photoemission and absorption spectroscopies: XPS and XAS), either ex-situ structural characterisation tools (X-ray diffraction –XRD– and X-ray reflectivity, XRR).
I explored the properties of systems that were fabricated aiming to exploit enhanced multiferroic behavior and potentially useful functionalities at room temperature. The systems of choice for this thesis were two prototypical multiferroic heterostructures composed by a ferromagnetic thin film deposited on a ferroelectric substrate: LSMO/BTO(001) and Fe,FeMn/PMN-PT(001). I focused on the magnetic response of the thin films to applied electric fields oriented perpendicular to the interface, and influencing the substrate. In both the chosen heterostructures the magnetic layers and ferroelectric substrates are all materials with high ordering temperature.
In this work, I am going to present the main results of the scientific activity in which I was involved during my summer internship at CNR-IOM in Trieste (Italy) during the period, May 16, 2019 to August 10, 2019.
This report focuses on the magneto-optic Kerr effect (MOKE) investigations done on two set of samples.
The first set of samples regards the optimization of the deposition parameters of CoFeB, in order to obtain a sample with low coercive field and isotropic behavior. The aim is to obtain a soft isotropic ferromagnetic layer, for further implementation into ferroelectric/ferromagnetic heterostructures.
The second set regards a run of experiments with the aim of setting an exchange bias coupling by partially oxidizing the ferromagnetic layer through the substrate deoxidation. Here Fe (10 nm) ferromagnetic layer is deposited on substrate Lithium Niobate (LNZ).
Le proprietà ottiche, elettroniche e magnetiche dei solidi e delle loro superfici dipendono dalla struttura degli stati elettronici entro alcuni eV dal livello di Fermi. I calcoli della struttura elettronica a bande sono efficaci solo nel caso di materiali a bassa interazione elettrone-elettrone (correlazione). L'esperimento e la guida necessaria per lo studio delle proprietà elettroniche dei solidi e delle loro superfici, ed in particolare la spettroscopia di fotoemissione (photoemission spectroscopy - PES) che si basa sulla misura dello spettro energetico degli elettroni emessi da un solido eccitato da un fascio di fotoni monocromatici di energia eccedente la funzione lavoro. La risoluzione dell'angolo di emissione (Angle-resolved photemission spectroscopy - ARPES) permette di avere informazioni sulla legge di dispersione En(k) dello stato elettronico iniziale, mentre la misura del grado di polarizzazione in spin del fascio di elettroni completa il set di numeri quantici, fornendo un dato molto importante per lo studio delle correlazioni elettroniche.
Probing the evolution of electronic, structural, and chemical properties of nanostructured materials under reaction conditions is a crucial issue to determine their structure-functionality relationships. A relevant example is represented by heterogeneous catalysts, whose properties change dramatically with respect to the environment. Much of effort has been made lately in designing new solutions and technologies, or modifying the existing ones for purpose of operando conditions analysis. The use of micro- or nanoreactors, is a second approach, where ultrathin membranes can efficiently separate the high-pressure volume from the (ultra)high vacuum of the characterization chamber. Very recently, microreactor cells have been developed to integrate the capabilities of ensemble-averaging synchrotron techniques with local probe ones, as TEM to analyze the same catalytic process with different instruments. Despite the great power of this method, the extremely small probing size of TEMs restricts the application of a combined approach to a limited set of micro-focused synchrotron techniques. We propose here the development of a novel multifunctional microreactor for operando low voltage Scanning TEM in a SEM compatible with a broad range of synchrotron techniques. We successfully designed a device compatible with Grazing Incident Small Angle X-ray Scattering (GISAXS), demonstrating the feasibility of our approach by studying the shape and size evolution of PVP-capped Pd nanocrystals under oxidation/reaction conditions.
By means of angle‐resolved photoemission spectroscopy measurements, the electronic band structure of the three‐dimensional PbBi4Te7 and PbBi6Te10 topological insulators is compared. The measurements clearly reveal coexisting topological and multiple Rashba‐like split states close to the Fermi level for both systems. The observed topological states derive from different surface terminations, as confirmed by scanning tunneling microscopy measurements, and are well‐described by the density functional theory simulations. Both the topological and the Rashba‐like states reveal a prevalent two‐dimensional character barely affected by air exposure. X‐ray and valence band photoemission measurements suggest Rashba‐like states stem from the van der Waals gap expansion, consistently with density functional theory calculations.
In this paper, we present the first publicly available human-annotated dataset of images obtained by the Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM). A total of roughly 22,000 SEM images at the nanoscale are classified into 10 categories to form 4 labeled training sets, suited for image recognition tasks. The selected categories span the range of 0D objects such as particles, 1D nanowires and fibres, 2D films and coated surfaces as well as patterned surfaces, and 3D structures such as microelectromechanical system (MEMS) devices and pillars. Additional categories such as tips and biological are also included to expand the spectrum of possible images. A preliminary degree of hierarchy is introduced, by creating a subtree structure for the categories and populating them with the available images, wherever possible.
Spintronics exploits the magnetoresistance effects to store or sense the magnetic information. Since the magnetoresistance strictly depends on the magnetic anisotropy of a system, it is fundamental to set a defined anisotropy to the system. Here, we investigate half-metallic La0.67Sr0.33MnO3 thin films by means of vectorial Magneto-Optical Kerr Magnetometry and found that they exhibit pure biaxial magnetic anisotropy at room temperature if grown onto a MgO (001) substrate with a thin SrTiO3 buffer. In this way, we can avoid unwanted uniaxial magnetic anisotropy contributions that may be detrimental for specific applications. The detailed study of the angular evolution of the magnetization reversal pathways and critical fields (coercivity and switching) discloses the origin of the magnetic anisotropy, which is magnetocrystalline in nature and shows fourfold symmetry at any temperature.
In order to enable the use of the prototypical 2D‐layered MoS2 for spintronics, its integration with ferromagnetic layers is mandatory. By employing interface‐sensitive 57Fe conversion electron Mössbauer spectroscopy (CEMS), hard X‐ray photoelectron spectroscopy (HAXPES), and transmission electron microscopy (TEM), the chemical, structural, and magnetic properties of the Fe/2D‐MoS2 interface are investigated. CEMS shows that out of the first 1 nm of Fe in direct contact with 2D‐MoS2, about half of the Fe atoms keeps the un‐perturbed Fe local environment, partly in regions where the original 2D‐layered structure of MoS2 is preserved as shown by TEM. The remaining reacting Fe atoms exclusively bond with Mo, with the majority of them being characterized by a ferromagnetic environment and the rest coordinating in a paramagnetic Fe‐Mo configuration. The preferential Fe bonding with Mo is corroborated by HAXPES analysis. The results provide detailed insight into the link between the bonding configuration and the interfacial magnetism at the Fe/2D‐MoS2 heterojunction.
Controlling magnetism by using electric fields is a goal of research towards novel spintronic devices and future nanoelectronics. For this reason, multiferroic heterostructures attract much interest. Here we provide experimental evidence, and supporting density functional theory analysis, of a transition in La0.65Sr0.35MnO3 thin film to a stable ferromagnetic phase, that is induced by the structural and strain properties of the ferroelectric BaTiO3 (BTO) substrate, which can be modified by applying external electric fields. X-ray magnetic circular dichroism measurements on Mn L edges with a synchrotron radiation show, in fact, two magnetic transitions as a function of temperature that correspond to structural changes of the BTO substrate. We also show that ferromagnetism, absent in the pristine condition at room temperature, can be established by electrically switching the BTO ferroelectric domains in the out-of-plane direction. The present results confirm that electrically induced strain can be exploited to control magnetism in multiferroic oxide heterostructures.
PtTe2 is a novel transition-metal dichalcogenide hosting type-II Dirac fermions that displays application capabilities in optoelectronics and hydrogen evolution reaction. Here it is shown, by combining surface science experiments and density functional theory, that the pristine surface of PtTe2 is chemically inert toward the most common ambient gases (oxygen and water) and even in air. It is demonstrated that the creation of Te vacancies leads to the appearance of tellurium-oxide phases upon exposing defected PtTe2 surfaces to oxygen or ambient atmosphere, which is detrimental for the ambient stability of uncapped PtTe2-based devices. On the contrary, in PtTe2 surfaces modified by the joint presence of Te vacancies and substitutional carbon atoms, the stable adsorption of hydroxyl groups is observed, an essential step for water splitting and the water–gas shift reaction. These results thus pave the way toward the exploitation of this class of Dirac materials in catalysis.
The electric and nonvolatile control of the spin texture in semiconductors would represent a fundamental step toward novel electronic devices combining memory and computing functionalities. Recently, GeTe has been theoretically proposed as the father compound of a new class of materials, namely ferroelectric Rashba semiconductors. They display bulk bands with giant Rashba-like splitting due to the inversion symmetry breaking arising from the ferroelectric polarization, thus allowing for the ferroelectric control of the spin. Here, we provide the experimental demonstration of the correlation between ferroelectricity and spin texture. A surface-engineering strategy is used to set two opposite predefined uniform ferroelectric polarizations, inward and outward, as monitored by piezoresponse force microscopy. Spin and angular resolved photoemission experiments show that these GeTe(111) surfaces display opposite sense of circulation of spin in bulk Rashba bands. Furthermore, we demonstrate the crafting of nonvolatile ferroelectric patterns in GeTe films at the nanoscale by using the conductive tip of an atomic force microscope. Based on the intimate link between ferroelectric polarization and spin in GeTe, ferroelectric patterning paves the way to the investigation of devices with engineered spin configurations.
Here we report a giant, completely reversible magneto-electric coupling of 100 nm polycrystalline Co layer in contact with ZnO nanorods. When the sample is under an applied bias of ± 2 V, the Co magnetic coercivity is reduced by a factor 5 from the un-poled case, with additionally a reduction of total magnetic moment in Co. Taking into account the chemical properties of ZnO nanorods measured by x-rays absorption near edge spectroscopy under bias, we conclude that these macroscopic effects on the magnetic response of the Co layer are due to the microstructure and the strong strain-driven magneto-electric coupling induced by the ZnO nanorods, whose nanostructuration maximizes the piezoelectric response under bias.
Interfaces between organic semiconductors and ferromagnetic metals offer intriguing opportunities in the rapidly developing field of organic spintronics. Understanding and controlling the spin-polarized electronic states at the interface is the key toward a reliable exploitation of this kind of systems. Here we propose an approach consisting in the insertion of a two-dimensional magnetic oxide layer at the interface with the aim of both increasing the reproducibility of the interface preparation and offering a way for a further fine control over the electronic and magnetic properties. We have inserted a two-dimensional Cr4O5 layer at the C60/Fe(001) interface and have characterized the corresponding morphological, electronic, and magnetic properties. Scanning tunneling microscopy and electron diffraction show that the film grows well-ordered both in the monolayer and multilayer regimes. Electron spectroscopies confirm that hybridization of the electronic states occurs at the interface. Finally, magnetic dichroism in X-ray absorption shows an unprecedented spin-polarization of the hybridized fullerene states. The latter result is discussed also in light of an ab initio theoretical analysis.
In this paper we applied transfer learning techniques for image recognition, automatic categorization, and labeling of nanoscience images obtained by scanning electron microscope (SEM). Roughly 20,000 SEM images were manually classified into 10 categories to form a labeled training set, which can be used as a reference set for future applications of deep learning enhanced algorithms in the nanoscience domain. The categories chosen spanned the range of 0-Dimensional (0D) objects such as particles, 1D nanowires and fibres, 2D films and coated surfaces, and 3D patterned surfaces such as pillars. The training set was used to retrain on the SEM dataset and to compare many convolutional neural network models (Inception-v3, Inception-v4, ResNet). We obtained compatible results by performing a feature extraction of the different models on the same dataset. We performed additional analysis of the classifier on a second test set to further investigate the results both on particular cases and from a statistical point of view. Our algorithm was able to successfully classify around 90% of a test dataset consisting of SEM images, while reduced accuracy was found in the case of images at the boundary between two categories or containing elements of multiple categories. In these cases, the image classification did not identify a predominant category with a high score. We used the statistical outcomes from testing to deploy a semi-automatic workflow able to classify and label images generated by the SEM. Finally, a separate training was performed to determine the volume fraction of coherently aligned nanowires in SEM images. The results were compared with what was obtained using the Local Gradient Orientation method. This example demonstrates the versatility and the potential of transfer learning to address specific tasks of interest in nanoscience applications.
We report the study of anatase TiO2(001)-oriented thin films grown by pulsed laser deposition on LaAlO3(001). A combination of in situ and ex situ methods has been used to address both the origin of the Ti3+-localized states and their relationship with the structural and electronic properties on the surface and the subsurface. Localized in-gap states are analyzed using resonant X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and are related to the Ti3+ electronic configuration, homogeneously distributed over the entire film thickness. We find that an increase in the oxygen pressure corresponds to an increase in Ti3+ only in a well-defined range of deposition pressure; outside this range, Ti3+ and the strength of the in-gap states are reduced.
The role of trivalent rare-earth dopants on the cerium oxidation state has been systematically studied by in situ photoemission spectroscopy with synchrotron radiation for 10 mol % rare-earth doped epitaxial ceria films. It was found that dopant rare-earths with smaller ionic radius foster the formation of Ce3+ by releasing the stress strength induced by the cation substitution. With a decrease of the dopant ionic radius from La3+ to Yb3+, the out-of-plane axis parameter of the crystal lattice decreases without introducing macroscopic defects. The high crystal quality of our films allowed us to comparatively study both the ionic conductivity and surface reactivity ruling out the influence of structural defects. The measured increase in the activation energy of films and their enhanced surface reactivity can be explained in terms of the dopant ionic radius effects on the Ce4+ → Ce3+ reduction as a result of lattice relaxation. Such findings open new perspectives in designing ceria-based materials with tailored properties by choosing suitable cation substitution.
The complex electronic properties of
ZrTe5 have recently stimulated in-depth investigations that assigned this material to either a topological insulator or a 3D Dirac semimetal phase. Here we report a comprehensive experimental and theoretical study of both electronic and structural properties of
ZrTe5, revealing that the bulk material is a strong topological insulator (STI). By means of angle-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy, we identify at the top of the valence band both a surface and a bulk state. The dispersion of these bands is well captured by ab initio calculations for the STI case, for the specific interlayer distance measured in our x-ray diffraction study. Furthermore, these findings are supported by scanning tunneling spectroscopy revealing the metallic character of the sample surface, thus confirming the strong topological nature of ZrTe5.
Samaria-doped ceria (SDC) thin films are particularly important for energy and electronic applications such as microsolid oxide fuel cells, electrolyzers, sensors, and memristors. In this paper, we report a comparative study investigating ionic conductivity and surface reactions for well-grown epitaxial SDC films varying the samaria doping concentration. With increasing doping above 20 mol % of samaria, an enhancement in the defect association is observed by Raman spectroscopy. The role of such associated defects on the films̀ oxygen ion transport and exchange is investigated by electrochemical impedance spectroscopy and electrochemical strain microscopy (ESM). The measurements reveal that the ionic transport has a sharp maximum in ionic conductivity and drops in its activation energy down to 0.6 eV for 20 mol % doping. Increasing the doping concentration further up to 40 mol %, it raises the activation energy substantially by a factor of 2. We ascribe the sluggish transport kinetics to the “bulk” ionic-near ordering in case of the heavily doped epitaxial films. Analysis of the ESM first-order reversal curve measurements indicates that these associated defects may have a beneficial role by lowering the activation of the oxygen exchange “surface” reaction for heavily doped 40 mol % of samaria. In a model experiment, through a solid solution series of samaria doped ceria epitaxial films, we reveal that the occurrence of associated defects in the bulk affects the surface charging state of the SDC films to increase the exchange rates. The implication of these findings is the design of coatings with tuned oxygen surface exchange by controlling the bulk associated clusters for future electrocatalytic applications.
Topological insulators are a promising class of materials for applications in the field of spintronics. New perspectives in this field can arise from interfacing metal–organic molecules with the topological insulator spin-momentum locked surface states, which can be perturbed enhancing or suppressing spintronics-relevant properties such as spin coherence. Here we show results from an angle-resolved photemission spectroscopy (ARPES) and scanning tunnelling microscopy (STM) study of the prototypical cobalt phthalocyanine (CoPc)/Bi2Se3 interface. We demonstrate that that the hybrid interface can act on the topological protection of the surface and bury the Dirac cone below the first quintuple layer.
The manipulation of ferromagnetic layer magnetization via electrical pulse is driving an intense research due to the important applications that this result will have on memory devices and sensors. In this study we realized a magnetotunnel junction in which one layer is made of Galfenol (Fe1-xGax) which possesses one of the highest magnetostrictive coefficient known. The multilayer stack has been grown by molecular beam epitaxy and e-beam evaporation. Optical lithography and physical etching have been combined to obtain 20x20 micron sized pillars. The obtained structures show tunneling conductivity across the junction and a tunnel magnetoresistance (TMR) effect of up to 11.5% in amplitude.
We investigate the structural, chemical, and magnetic properties on BiFe0.5Cr0.5O3 (BFCO) thin films grown on (001) (110) and (111) oriented SrTiO3 (STO) substrates by x-ray magnetic circular dichroism and x-ray diffraction. We show how highly pure BFCO films, differently from the theoretically expected ferrimagnetic behavior, present a very weak dichroic signal at Cr and Fe edges, with both moments aligned with the external field. Chemically sensitive hysteresis loops show no hysteretic behavior and no saturation up to 6.8 T. The linear responses are induced by the tilting of the Cr and Fe moments along the applied magnetic field.
Research on spintronics and on multiferroics leads now to the possibility of combining the properties of these materials in order to develop new functional devices. Here we report the integration of a layer of magnetostrictive material into a magnetic tunnel junction. A FeGa/MgO/Fe heterostructure has been grown on a GaAs(001) substrate by molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) and studied by X-ray magnetic circular dichroism (XMCD). The comparison between magneto optical Kerr effect (MOKE) measurements and hysteresis performed in total electron yield allowed distinguishing the ferromagnetic hysteresis loop of the FeGa top layer from that of the Fe buried layer, evidencing a different switching field of the two layers. This observation indicates an absence of magnetic coupling between the two ferromagnetic layers despite the thickness of the MgO barrier of only 2.5 nm. The in-plane magnetic anisotropy has also been investigated. Overall results show the good quality of the heterostructure and the general feasibility of such a device using magnetostrictive materials in magnetic tunnel junction.