AgCrSe2 exhibits remarkably high ionic conduction, an inversion symmetry-breaking structural transition, and is host to complex non-colinear magnetic orders. Despite its attractive physical and chemical properties and its potential for technological applications, studies of this compound to date are focused almost exclusively on bulk samples. Here, we report the growth of AgCrSe2 thin films via molecular beam epitaxy. Single-orientated epitaxial growth was confirmed by x-ray diffraction, while resonant photoemission spectroscopy measurements indicate a consistent electronic structure as compared to bulk single crystals. We further demonstrate significant flexibility of the grain morphology and cation stoichiometry of this compound via control of the growth parameters, paving the way for the targeted engineering of the electronic and chemical properties of AgCrSe2 in thin-film form.
Mn3Si2Te6 is a rare example of a layered ferrimagnet. It has recently been shown to host a colossal angular magnetoresistance as the spin orientation is rotated from the in- to out-of-plane direction, proposed to be underpinned by a topological nodal-line degeneracy in its electronic structure. Nonetheless, the origins of its ferrimagnetic structure remain controversial, while its experimental electronic structure, and the role of correlations in shaping this, are little explored to date. Here, we combine x-ray and photoemission-based spectroscopies with first-principles calculations to probe the elemental-selective electronic structure and magnetic order in Mn3Si2Te6. Through these, we identify a marked Mn-Te hybridization, which weakens the electronic correlations and enhances the magnetic anisotropy. We demonstrate how this strengthens the magnetic frustration in Mn3Si2Te6, which is key to stabilizing its ferrimagnetic order, and find a crucial role of both exchange interactions extending beyond nearest-neighbors and antisymmetric exchange in dictating its ordering temperature. Together, our results demonstrate a powerful methodology of using experimental electronic structure probes to constrain the parameter space for first-principles calculations of magnetic materials, and through this approach, reveal a pivotal role played by covalency in stabilizing the ferrimagnetic order in Mn3Si2Te6.
Infrared scattering-type scanning near-field optical microscopy (IR s-SNOM) and imaging is here exploited together with attenuated total reflection (ATR) IR imaging and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) to depict the chemical composition of fibers in hybrid electrospun meshes. The focus is on a recently developed bio-hybrid material for vascular tissue engineering applications, named Silkothane®, obtained in the form of nanofibrous matrices from the processing of a silk fibroin-polyurethane (SFPU) blend via electrospinning. Morphology and chemistry of single fibers, at both surface and subsurface level, have been successfully characterized with nanoscale resolution, taking advantage of the IR s-SNOM capability to portray the nanoscale depth profile of this modern material working at diverse harmonics of the signal. The applied methodology allowed to describe the superficial characteristics of the mesh up to a depth of about 100 nm, showing that SF and PU do not tend to co-aggregate to form hybrid fibers, at least at the length scale of hundreds of nanometers, and that subdomains other than the fibrillar ones can be present. More generally, in the present contribution, the depth profiling capabilities of IR s-SNOM, so far theoretically predicted and experimentally proven only on model systems, have been corroborated on a real material in its natural conditions with respect to production, opening the room for the exploitation of IR s-SNOM as valuable technique to support the production and the engineering of nanostructured materials by the precise understanding of their chemistry at the interface with the environment.
It is well-known that all the phases of the manufacturing influence the extraordinary aesthetic and acoustic features of Stradivari’s instruments. However, these masterpieces still keep some of their secrets hidden by the lack of documentary evidence. In particular, there is not a general consensus on the use of a protein-based ground coating directly spread on the wood surface by the Cremonese Master. The present work demonstrates that infrared scattering-type scanning near-fields optical microscopy (s-SNOM) may provide unprecedented information on very complex cross-sectioned microsamples collected from two of Stradivari’s violins, nanoresolved chemical sensitivity being the turning point for detecting minute traces of a specific compound, namely proteins, hidden by the matrix when macro or micro sampling approaches are exploited. This nanoresolved chemical-sensitive technique contributed new and robust evidence to the long-debated question about the use of proteinaceous materials by Stradivari.
Space and mirror charge effects in time-resolved photoemission spectroscopy can be modeled to obtain relevant information on the recombination dynamics of charge carriers. We successfully extracted from these phenomena the reneutralization characteristic time of positive charges generated by photoexcitation in CeO2-based films. For the above-band-gap excitation, a large fraction of positive carriers with a lifetime that exceeds 100 ps are generated. Otherwise, the sub-band-gap excitation induces the formation of a significantly smaller fraction of charges with lifetimes of tens of picoseconds, ascribed to the excitation of defect sites or to multiphoton absorption. When the oxide is combined with Ag nanoparticles, the sub-band-gap excitation of localized surface plasmon resonances leads to reneutralization times longer than 300 ps. This was interpreted by considering the electronic unbalance at the surface of the nanoparticles generated by the injection of electrons, via localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) decay, into CeO2. This study represents an example of how to exploit the space charge effect in gaining access to the surface carrier dynamics in CeO2 within the picosecond range of time, which is fundamental to describe the photocatalytic processes.
Single crystals of the hexagonal triangular lattice compound AgCrSe2 have been grown by chemical vapor transport. The crystals have been carefully characterized and studied by magnetic susceptibility, magnetization, specific heat, and thermal expansion. In addition, we used Cr-electron spin resonance and neutron diffraction to probe the Cr 3d3 magnetism microscopically. To obtain the electronic density of states, we employed x-ray absorption and resonant photoemission spectroscopy in combination with density functional theory calculations. Our studies evidence an anisotropic magnetic order below TN=32K. Susceptibility data in small fields of about 1 T reveal an antiferromagnetic (AFM) type of order for H⊥c, whereas for H∥c the data are reminiscent of a field-induced ferromagnetic (FM) structure. At low temperatures and for H⊥c, the field-dependent magnetization and AC susceptibility data evidence a metamagnetic transition at H+=5T, which is absent for H∥c. We assign this to a transition from a planar cycloidal spin structure at low fields to a planar fanlike arrangement above H+. A fully ferromagnetically polarized state is obtained above the saturation field of H⊥S=23.7T at 2 K with a magnetization of Ms=2.8μB/Cr. For H∥c, M(H) monotonically increases and saturates at the same Ms value at H∥S=25.1T at 4.2 K. Above TN, the magnetic susceptibility and specific heat indicate signatures of two dimensional (2D) frustration related to the presence of planar ferromagnetic and antiferromagnetic exchange interactions. We found a pronounced nearly isotropic maximum in both properties at about T∗=45K, which is a clear fingerprint of short range correlations and emergent spin fluctuations. Calculations based on a planar 2D Heisenberg model support our experimental findings and suggest a predominant FM exchange among nearest and AFM exchange among third-nearest neighbors. Only a minor contribution might be assigned to the antisymmetric Dzyaloshinskii-Moriya interaction possibly related to the noncentrosymmetric polar space group R3m. Due to these competing interactions, the magnetism in AgCrSe2, in contrast to the oxygen-based delafossites, can be tuned by relatively small, experimentally accessible magnetic fields, allowing us to establish the complete anisotropic magnetic H-T phase diagram in detail.
Hybridization of electronic states and orbital symmetry in transition metal oxides are generally considered key ingredients in the description of both their electronic and magnetic properties. In the prototypical case of La0.65Sr0.35MnO3 (LSMO), a landmark system for spintronics applications, a description based solely on Mn 3d and O 2p electronic states is reductive. We thus analyzed elemental and orbital distributions in the LSMO valence band through a comparison between density functional theory calculations and experimental photoelectron spectra in a photon energy range from soft to hard x rays. We reveal a number of hidden contributions, arising specifically from La 5p, Mn 4s, and O 2s orbitals, considered negligible in previous analyses; our results demonstrate that all these contributions are significant for a correct description of the valence band of LSMO and of transition metal oxides in general.
The femtosecond evolution of the electronic temperature of laser-excited gold nanoparticles is measured, by means of ultrafast time-resolved photoemission spectroscopy induced by extreme-ultraviolet radiation pulses. The temperature of the electron gas is deduced by recording and fitting high-resolution photo emission spectra around the Fermi edge of gold nanoparticles providing a direct, unambiguous picture of the ultrafast electron-gas dynamics. These results will be instrumental to the refinement of existing models of femtosecond processes in laterally-confined and bulk condensed-matter systems, and for understanding more deeply the role of hot electrons in technological applications.
The growing demand for innovative means in biomedical, therapeutic and diagnostic sciences has led to the development of nanomedicine. In this context, naturally occurring tubular nanostructures composed of rolled sheets of alumino-silicates, known as halloysite nanotubes, have found wide application. Halloysite nanotubes indeed have surface properties that favor the selective loading of biomolecules. Here, we present the first, to our knowledge, structural study of DNA-decorated halloysite nanotubes, carried out with nanometric spatially-resolved infrared spectroscopy. Single nanotube absorption measurements indicate a partial covering of halloysite by DNA molecules, which show significant structural modifications taking place upon loading. The present study highlights the constraints for the use of nanostructured clays as DNA carriers and demonstrates the power of super-resolved infrared spectroscopy as an effective and versatile tool for the evaluation of immobilization processes in the context of drug delivery and gene transfer.
We explored the properties of the quasi-binary Bi2Se3-Bi2S3 system over a wide compositional range. X-ray diffraction analysis demonstrates that rhombohedral crystals can be synthesized within the solid solution interval 0-22 mol% Bi2S3, while at 33 mol% Bi2S3 only orthorhombic crystals are obtained. Core level photoemission spectroscopy reveals the presence of Bi3+, Se2- and S2- species and the absence of metallic species, thus indicating that S incorporation into Bi2Se3 proceeds prevalently through the substitution of Se with S. Spin- and angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy shows that topological surface states develop on the surfaces of the Bi2Se3-ySy (y <= 0.66) rhombohedral crystals, in close analogy with the prototypical case of Bi2Se3, while the orthorhombic crystals with higher S content turn out to be trivial semiconductors. Our results connect unambiguously the phase diagram and electronic properties of the Bi2Se3-Bi2S3 system.
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.
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.
We investigate the temperature-dependent electronic structure of the van der Waals ferromagnet, CrGeTe3. Using angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy, we identify atomic- and orbital-specific band shifts upon cooling through TC. From these, together with x-ray absorption spectroscopy and x-ray magnetic circular dichroism measurements, we identify the states created by a covalent bond between the Te 5p and the Cr eg orbitals as the primary driver of the ferromagnetic ordering in this system, while it is the Cr t2g states that carry the majority of the spin moment. The t2g states furthermore exhibit a marked bandwidth increase and a remarkable lifetime enhancement upon entering the ordered phase, pointing to a delicate interplay between localized and itinerant states in this family of layered ferromagnets.
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.
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.
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).
The design and characterization of a HHG source conceived for Time and Angle Resolved PhotoElectron Spectroscopy (TR-ARPES) experiments are presented. The harmonics are selected through a grating monochromator with an innovative design able to provide XUV radiation for two distinct TR-ARPES setups.
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.
The knowledge of the picosecond dynamics of the energy level alignment between donor and acceptor materials in organic photovoltaic devices under working conditions is a challenge for fundamental material research. We measured by means of time-resolved Resonant X-ray Photoemission Spectroscopy (RPES) the energy level alignment in ZnPc/C60 films. We employed 800 nm femtosecond laser pulses to pump the system simulating sunlight excitation and X-rays from the synchrotron as a probe. We measured changes in the valence bands due to pump induced modifications of the interface dipole. Our measurements prove the feasibility of time-resolved RPES with high repetition rate sources.
This thesis completes my work as doctoral student of the Scuola di Dottorato in Fisica, Astrofisica e Fisica Applicata at the Università degli Studi di Milano that has been carried out, starting in November 4236, mostly at the Laboratorio TASC of IOM-CNR3 in the premises of the Elettra - Sincrotrone Trieste and FERMI@Elettra infrastructures4, in the framework of the NFFA and APE-beamline facilites5, as well as by accessing international large scale infrastructures and laboratories. The activity has addressed the development of experimental methodologies and novel instrumentation oriented to the study of the dynamical properties of highly correlated materials after high energy excitation. The science programme has been carried out by exploiting ultrafast femtosecond probes from the optical regime (Ti-Sa lasers, fibre laser oscillators) to the extreme UV-soft X rays at FERMI, to the picosecond hard X-rays from the SPring-: and Diamond synchrotron radiation source. The sample synthesis of correlated oxides and its characterization has been performed within the NFFA facility and APE-group collaboration in Trieste as well as the design and construction of the all new laser High Harmonic Generation beam line NFFA-SPRINT and its end station for time resolved vectorial electron spin polarimetry.
This thesis reports on the construction and commissioning tests of the novel experimental set-up needed for a long term research project, named ULTRASPIN, aiming at establishing time resolved spin-resolved photoemission measurements with ultra-short (10−14 s) photon pulses from Free Electron Laser beamlines or from table-top UV/Soft-X beamlines.
The ULTRASPIN project started in the summer 2013, building on competences and instrumentation in part available from the APE-beamline group of IOM-CNR at Elettra, and with the partial support of an European contract (EXSTASY-EXperimental STation for the Analysis of the Spin Dynamics, Grant agreement N.PIIF-GA-2012-326641) and related fellowship of a world-expert of Mott scattering.
I have been involved from the beginning in the final design, in the construction and commissioning of a novel stray-field free UHV apparatus for preparing and hosting atomically clean surfaces and for measuring the spin-polarization of the photo-emitted electrons with “single pulse” sensitivity down to the 10−14 s time scale, as well as in the standard high frequency spectroscopy mode. In the commissioning phase I have participated to test experiments on ULTRASPIN as well as to relevant experiments conducted in other apparatuses.