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.
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.
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.
The redox process of pretreated Co3O4 thin film coatings has been studied by ambient pressure soft X-ray absorption spectroscopy. The Co3O4 coatings were composed of nanoparticles of about 10 nm in size as prepared by pulsed laser deposition. The thin film coatings were pretreated in He or in H2 up to 150 °C prior to exposure to the reactive gases. The reactivity toward carbon monoxide and oxygen was monitored by near-edge X-ray absorption fine structure (NEXAFS) spectroscopy during gas exposures. The results indicate that the samples pretreated in He show reactivity only at high temperature, while the samples pretreated in H2 are reactive also at room temperature. X-ray photoemission spectroscopy measurements in ultra-high vacuum and NEXAFS simulations with the CTM4XAS code further specify the results.
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.
Materials exhibiting nodal‐line fermions promise superb impact on technology for the prospect of dissipationless spintronic devices. Among nodal‐line semimetals, the ZrSiX (X = S, Se, Te) class is the most suitable candidate for such applications. However, the surface chemical reactivity of ZrSiS and ZrSiSe has not been explored yet. Here, by combining different surface‐science tools and density functional theory, it is demonstrated that the formation of ZrSiS and ZrSiSe surfaces by cleavage is accompanied by the washing up of the exotic topological bands, giving rise to the nodal line. Moreover, while the ZrSiS has a termination layer with both Zr and S atoms, in the ZrSiSe surface, reconstruction occurs with the appearance of Si surface atoms, which is particularly prone to oxidation. It is demonstrated that the chemical activity of ZrSiX compounds is mostly determined by the interaction of the Si layer with the ZrX sublayer. A suitable encapsulation for ZrSiX should not only preserve their surfaces from interaction with oxidative species, but also provide a saturation of dangling bonds with minimal distortion of the surface.
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.
The superconducting properties of Sr1–xLaxCuO2 thin films are strongly affected by sample preparation procedures, including the annealing step, which are not always well controlled. We have studied the evolution of Cu L2,3 and O K edge x-ray absorption spectra (XAS) of Sr1–xLaxCuO2 thin films as a function of reducing annealing, both qualitatively and quantitatively. By using linearly polarized radiation, we are able to identify the signatures of the presence of apical oxygen in the as-grown sample and its gradual removal as a function of duration of 350 °C Ar annealing performed on the same sample. Even though the as-grown sample appears to be hole doped, we cannot identify the signature of the Zhang-Rice singlet in the O K XAS, and it is extremely unlikely that the interstitial excess oxygen can give rise to a superconducting or even a metallic ground state. XAS and x-ray linear dichroism analyses are, therefore, shown to be valuable tools to improving the control over the annealing process of electron doped superconductors.
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.
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.
In this work, we studied the influence of the buffer layer composition on the IrMn thickness threshold for the onset of exchange bias in IrMn/Co bilayers. By means of magnetometry, x-ray absorption and x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, we investigated the magnetic and chemical properties of the stacks. We demonstrated a higher diffusion of Mn through the Co layer in the case of a Cu buffer layer. This is consistent with the observation of larger IrMn thickness threshold for the onset of exchange bias.
In the rapidly growing field of spintronics, simultaneous control of electronic and magnetic properties is essential, and the perspective of building novel phases is directly linked to the control of tuning parameters, for example, thickness and doping. Looking at the relevant effects in interface-driven spintronics, the reduced symmetry at a surface and interface corresponds to a severe modification of the overlap of electron orbitals, that is, to a change of electron hybridization. Here we report a chemically and magnetically sensitive depth-dependent analysis of two paradigmatic systems, namely La1−xSrxMnO3 and (Ga,Mn)As. Supported by cluster calculations, we find a crossover between surface and bulk in the electron hybridization/correlation and we identify a spectroscopic fingerprint of bulk metallic character and ferromagnetism versus depth. The critical thickness and the gradient of hybridization are measured, setting an intrinsic limit of 3 and 10 unit cells from the surface, respectively, for (Ga,Mn)As and La1−xSrxMnO3, for fully restoring bulk properties.
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.
We report on epitaxial growth of Bi2Se3topological insulator thin films by Pulsed Laser Deposition(PLD). X-ray diffraction investigation confirms that Bi2Se3with a single (001)-orientation can beobtained on several substrates in a narrow (i.e., 20°C) range of deposition temperatures and at highdeposition pressure (i.e., 0.1 mbar). However, only films grown on (001)-Al2O3substrates show analmost-unique in-plane orientation.In-situspin-resolved angular resolved photoemission spectros-copy experiments, performed at the NFFA-APE facility of IOM-CNR and Elettra (Trieste), show asingle Dirac cone with the Dirac point atEB0:38 eV located in the center of the Brillouin zoneand the spin polarization of the topological surface states. These results demonstrate that the topolog-ical surface state can be obtained in PLD-grown Bi2Se3thin films.
TiO2 is commonly used as the active switching layer in resistive random access memory. The electrical characteristics of these devices are directly related to the fundamental conditions inside the TiO2 layer and at the interfaces between it and the surrounding electrodes. However, it is complex to disentangle the effects of film “bulk” properties and interface phenomena. The present work uses hard X-ray photoemission spectroscopy (HAXPES) at different excitation energies to distinguish between these regimes. Changes are found to affect the entire thin film, but the most dramatic effects are confined to an interface. These changes are connected to oxygen ions moving and redistributing within the film. Based on the HAXPES results, post-deposition annealing of the TiO2 thin film was investigated as an optimisation pathway in order to reach an ideal compromise between device resistivity and lifetime. The structural and chemical changes upon annealing are investigated using X-ray absorption spectroscopy and are further supported by a range of bulk and surface sensitive characterisation methods. In summary, it is shown that the management of oxygen content and interface quality is intrinsically important to device behavior and that careful annealing procedures are a powerful device optimisation technique.
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 investigated the influence of surfaces in the formation of different crystal structures of a spin crossover compound, namely [Fe(L)2] (LH: (2-(pyrazol-1-yl)-6-(1H-tetrazol-5-yl)pyridine), which is a neutral compound thermally switchable around room temperature. We observed that the surface induces the formation of two different crystal structures, which exhibit opposite spin transitions, i.e. on heating them up to the transition temperature, one polymorph switches from high spin to low spin and the second polymorph switches irreversibly from low spin to high spin. We attributed this inversion to the presence of water molecules H-bonded to the complex tetrazolyl moieties in the crystals. Thin deposits were investigated by means of polarized optical microscopy, atomic force microscopy, X-ray diffraction, X-ray absorption spectroscopy and micro Raman spectroscopy; moreover the analysis of the Raman spectra and the interpretation of spin inversion were supported by DFT calculations.
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.
Spin-crossover metal complexes are highly promising magnetic molecular switches for prospective molecule-based devices. The spin-crossover molecular photoswitches developed so far operate either at very low temperatures or in the liquid phase, which hinders practical applications. Herein, we present a molecular spin-crossover iron(II) complex that can be switched between paramagnetic high-spin and diamagnetic low-spin states with light at room temperature in the solid state. The reversible photoswitching is induced by alternating irradiation with ultraviolet and visible light and proceeds at the molecular level.
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.