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.
Implementation of in-situ and operando experimental set-ups for bridging the pressure gap in characterization techniques based on monitoring of photoelectron emission has made significant achievements at several beamlines at Elettra synchrotron facility. These set-ups are now operational and have been successfully used to address unsolved issues exploring events occurring at solid–gas, solid–liquid and solid-solid interfaces of functional materials. The sections in the article communicate the research opportunities offered by the current set-ups at APE, BACH, ESCAmicroscopy and Nanospectroscopy beamlines and outline the next steps to overcome the present limits.
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.
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.
We present a new experimental setup for performing X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy (XAS) in the soft X-ray range at ambient pressure. The ambient pressure XAS setup is fully compatible with the ultra high vacuum environment of a synchrotron radiation spectroscopy beamline end station by means of ultrathin Si3N4 membranes acting as windows for the X-ray beam and seal of the atmospheric sample environment. The XAS detection is performed in total electron yield (TEY) mode by probing the drain current from the sample with a picoammeter. The high signal/noise ratio achievable in the TEY mode, combined with a continuous scanning of the X-ray energies, makes it possible recording XAS spectra in a few seconds. The first results show the performance of this setup to record fast XAS spectra from sample surfaces exposed at atmospheric pressure, even in the case of highly insulating samples. The use of a permanent magnet inside the reaction cell enables the measurement of X-ray magnetic circular dichroism at ambient pressure.
The spin-spin correlations in hollow (H) and full (F) maghemite nanoparticles (NPs) have been studied by X-ray magnetic circular dichroism (XMCD). An unexpected XMCD signal was detected and analyzed under the application of a small field (μ0H = 160 Oe) and at remanence for both F and H NPs. Clear differences in the magnitude and in the lineshape of the XMCD spectra between F and H NPs emerged. By comparing XMCD measurements performed with a variable degree of surface sensitivity, we were able to address the specific role played by the surface spins in the magnetism of the NPs.
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.