Interfaces between water and materials are ubiquitous and are crucial in materials sciences and in biology, where investigating the interaction of water with the surface under ambient conditions is key to shedding light on the main processes occurring at the interface. Magnesium oxide is a popular model system to study the metal oxide–water interface, where, for sufficient water loadings, theoretical models have suggested that reconstructed surfaces involving hydrated Mg2+ metal ions may be energetically favored. In this work, by combining experimental and theoretical surface-selective ambient pressure X-ray absorption spectroscopy with multivariate curve resolution and molecular dynamics, we evidence in real time the occurrence of Mg2+ solvation at the interphase between MgO and solvating media such as water and methanol (MeOH). Further, we show that the Mg2+ surface ions undergo a reversible solvation process, we prove the dissolution/redeposition of the Mg2+ ions belonging to the MgO surface, and we demonstrate the formation of octahedral [Mg(H2O)6]2+ and [Mg(MeOH)6]2+ intermediate solvated species. The unique surface, electronic, and structural sensitivity of the developed technique may be beneficial to access often elusive properties of low-Z metal ion intermediates involved in interfacial processes of chemical and biological interest.
Motivated by the recent wealth of exotic magnetic phases emerging in two-dimensional frustrated lattices, we investigate the origin of possible magnetism in the monolayer family of triangular lattice materials MX2 (M=V, Mn, Ni and X=Cl, Br, I). We first show that consideration of general properties such as filling and hybridization enables to formulate the trends for the most relevant magnetic interaction parameters. In particular, we observe that the effects of spin-orbit coupling (SOC) can be effectively tuned through the ligand elements as the considered 3d transition metal ions do not strongly contribute to the anisotropic component of the intersite exchange interaction. Consequently, we find that the corresponding SOC matrix elements differ significantly from the atomic limit. In the next step and by using two ab initio based complementary approaches, we extract realistic effective spin models and find that in the case of heavy ligand elements, SOC effects manifest in anisotropic exchange and single-ion anisotropy only for specific fillings.
This work presents an original approach to preparing pure and Ni-doped CeO2 nanoparticles (NPs) that can be directly drop-casted on a substrate or calcined to form powders. The reduction of the NPs in H2 is very different than the one usually anticipated for supported Ni–CeO2 catalysts. In situ soft X-ray absorption and infrared spectroscopies revealed that the reduction of Ce4+ into Ce3+ in H2 proceeds via simultaneous oxidation of Ni2+ ions into Niδ+ (2<δ<3). Comparison with reference samples indicates that Ce4+ ions reduction is promoted over Ni-doped CeO2 NPs, whereas that of Ni2+ is hindered. Theoretical simulation of Ni L-edge spectra suggested that Ni dopant into ceria is in a square planar four-coordinate environment, in contrast to the familiar octahedral symmetry of bulk nickel oxides. Our results reveal that the surface chemistry of Ni-doped CeO2 is quite distinct as compared to that of the individual bulk oxides, which potentially can lead to a different performance of this material, notably in catalytic applications.
The ever-growing demand for Li-ion batteries requires high-capacity electrode materials that should also be environmentally benign, Co-free, secure and durable, to achieve an optimal compromise between sustainability and functional performances. Spinel LiMn2O4 (LMO) is a state-of-the-art material, which, in principle, could satisfy such requirements. However, an undesired cubic-tetragonal phase transition favors Jahn-Teller (J-T) spinel distortion, leading to severe capacity reduction upon cycling below 3 V. Here, we propose a novel dual-doping strategy for LMO, based on the partial substitution of Mn(III) with Fe(III) and Ti(IV) to design new active materials for high-capacity cathodes, namely LiFexMn2-x-yTiyO4 (LFMT), with Li/Mn ratio ranging between 1 and 1.7. The substitution of Mn with Fe and Ti suppresses the J-T distortion, which is often still evident in the case of Ti-doped LMO. This allows cycling in a wider voltage range (4.8-1.5 V), thus resulting in higher capacity and significantly improved stability. The lithiation mechanisms were investigated by combining ex-situ X-ray diffraction (XRD) and X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS analyses). It demonstrated that the only redox-active metal is Mn, while Fe and Ti are electrochemically inactive. The extensive electrochemical lithiation/delithiation of the LFMT compositions brought to unprecedented results, which give evidence of stabilizing cation disorder through the formation of Mn-rich and Mn-poor domains, which leades to two spinel phases with different Mn:Ti ratios. These insights into the lithiation mechanism pave the way for a better understanding of the doping chemistry and electrochemistry of Mn-based spinels as cathode materials for Li-ion batteries.
Curved magnets attract considerable interest for their unusually rich phase diagram, often encompassing exotic (e.g., topological or chiral) spin states. Micromagnetic simulations are playing a central role in the theoretical understanding of such phenomena; their predictive power, however, rests on the availability of reliable model parameters to describe a given material or nanostructure. Here we demonstrate how noncollinear-spin polarized density-functional theory can be used to determine the flexomagnetic coupling coefficients in real systems. By focusing on monolayer CrI3, we find a crossover as a function of curvature between a magnetization normal to the surface to a cycloidal state, which we rationalize in terms of effective anisotropy and Dzyaloshinskii-Moriya contributions to the magnetic energy. Our results reveal an unexpectedly large impact of spin-orbit interactions on the curvature-induced anisotropy, which we discuss in the context of existing phenomenological models
Multiferroic materials have attracted wide interest because of their exceptional static1,2,3 and dynamical4,5,6 magnetoelectric properties. In particular, type-II multiferroics exhibit an inversion-symmetry-breaking magnetic order that directly induces ferroelectric polarization through various mechanisms, such as the spin-current or the inverse Dzyaloshinskii–Moriya effect3,7. This intrinsic coupling between the magnetic and dipolar order parameters results in high-strength magnetoelectric effects3,8. Two-dimensional materials possessing such intrinsic multiferroic properties have been long sought for to enable the harnessing of magnetoelectric coupling in nanoelectronic devices1,9,10. Here we report the discovery of type-II multiferroic order in a single atomic layer of the transition-metal-based van der Waals material NiI2. The multiferroic state of NiI2 is characterized by a proper-screw spin helix with given handedness, which couples to the charge degrees of freedom to produce a chirality-controlled electrical polarization. We use circular dichroic Raman measurements to directly probe the magneto-chiral ground state and its electromagnon modes originating from dynamic magnetoelectric coupling. Combining birefringence and second-harmonic-generation measurements with theoretical modelling and simulations, we detect a highly anisotropic electronic state that simultaneously breaks three-fold rotational and inversion symmetry, and supports polar order. The evolution of the optical signatures as a function of temperature and layer number surprisingly reveals an ordered magnetic polar state that persists down to the ultrathin limit of monolayer NiI2. These observations establish NiI2 and transition metal dihalides as a new platform for studying emergent multiferroic phenomena, chiral magnetic textures and ferroelectricity in the two-dimensional limit.
Two-dimensional (2D) van der Waals (vdW) magnets provide an ideal platform for exploring, on the fundamental side, new microscopic mechanisms and for developing, on the technological side, ultracompact spintronic applications. So far, bilinear spin Hamiltonians have been commonly adopted to investigate the magnetic properties of 2D magnets, neglecting higher order magnetic interactions. However, we here provide quantitative evidence of giant biquadratic exchange interactions in monolayer NiX2 (X=Cl, Br and I), by combining first-principles calculations and the newly developed machine learning method for constructing Hamiltonian. Interestingly, we show that the ferromagnetic ground state within NiCl2 single layers cannot be explained by means of the bilinear Heisenberg Hamiltonian; rather, the nearest-neighbor biquadratic interaction is found to be crucial. Furthermore, using a three-orbitals Hubbard model, we propose that the giant biquadratic exchange interaction originates from large hopping between unoccupied and occupied orbitals on neighboring magnetic ions. On a general framework, our work suggests biquadratic exchange interactions to be important in 2D magnets with edge-shared octahedra.
High entropy oxides (HEOs) are an emerging class of materials constituted by multicomponent systems that are receiving special interest as candidates for obtaining novel and desirable properties. In this study we present a detailed investigation of the relevant intermediates arising at the surface of the prototypical HEO Mg0.2Co0.2Ni0.2Cu0.2Zn0.2O during low-temperature CO oxidation. By combining Cu L2,3-edge operando soft X-ray absorption spectroscopy (soft-XAS) with density functional theory simulations, we propose that upon HEO exposure to CO at 235 °C reduced Cu(I) sites arise mostly coordinated to activated CO molecules and partly to bidentate carbonate species. When the HEO surface is then exposed to a stoichiometric mixture of CO+1/2 O2 at 250 °C, CO2 is produced while bidentante carbonate moieties remain interacting with the Cu(I) sites. We structurally characterize the carbonate and CO preferential adsorbtion geometries on the Cu(I) surface metal centers, and find that CO adopts a bent conformation that may energetically favor its subsequent oxidation. The unique surface, structural and electronic sensitivity of soft XAS together with the developed data analysis work-flow may be beneficial to characterize often elusive surface properties of systems of catalytic interest.
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.
Composite multiferroics containing ferroelectric and ferromagnetic components often have much larger magnetoelectric coupling compared to their single-phase counterparts. Doped or alloyed HfO2-based ferroelectrics may serve as a promising component in composite multiferroic structures potentially feasible for technological applications. Recently, a strong charge-mediated magnetoelectric coupling at the Ni/HfO2 interface has been predicted using density functional theory calculations. Here, we report on the experimental evidence of such magnetoelectric coupling at the Ni/Hf0.5Zr0.5O2(HZO) interface. Using a combination of operando XAS/XMCD and HAXPES/MCDAD techniques, we probe element-selectively the local magnetic properties at the Ni/HZO interface in functional Au/Co/Ni/HZO/W capacitors and demonstrate clear evidence of the ferroelectric polarization effect on the magnetic response of a nanometer-thick Ni marker layer. The observed magnetoelectric effect and the electronic band lineup of the Ni/HZO interface are interpreted based on the results of our theoretical modeling. It elucidates the critical role of an ultrathin NiO interlayer, which controls the sign of the magnetoelectric effect as well as provides a realistic band offset at the Ni/HZO interface, in agreement with the experiment. Our results hold promise for the use of ferroelectric HfO2-based composite multiferroics for the design of multifunctional devices compatible with modern semiconductor technology.
Although Ziegler–Natta (ZN) catalysts play a major role in the polyolefin market, a true understanding of their properties at the molecular level is still missing. In particular, there is a lack of knowledge on the electronic properties of Ti sites. Theoretical calculations predict that the electron density of the Ti sites in the precatalysts correlates with the activation energy for olefin insertion in the Ti-alkyl bond generated at these sites after activation by Al-alkyls. It is also well known that the effective charge on the Ti sites in the activated catalysts affects the olefin π-complexation. In this contribution, we exploit two electronic spectroscopies, UV–vis and Ti L2,3-edge near-edge X-ray absorption fine structure (NEXAFS), complemented with theoretical simulation to investigate three ZN precatalysts of increasing complexity (up to an industrial system) and the corresponding catalysts activated by triethylaluminum (TEAl). We provide compelling evidence for the presence of monomeric 6-fold-coordinated Ti4+ species in all of the precatalysts, which however differ in the effective charge on the Ti sites. We also unambiguously demonstrate that these sites are reduced by TEAl to two types of monomeric 5-coordinated Ti3+, either alkylated or not, and that the former are involved in ethylene polymerization. In addition, small TiCl3 clusters are formed in the industrial catalyst, likely due to the occurrence of severe reducing conditions within the catalyst pores. These data prove the potential of these two techniques, coupled with simulation, in providing an accurate description of the electronic properties of heterogeneous ZN catalysts.
The magnetic properties of the two-dimensional VI3 bilayer are the focus of our first-principles analysis, highlighting the role of t2g orbital splitting and carried out in comparison with the CrI3 prototypical case, where the splitting is negligible. In VI3 bilayers, the empty a1g state is found to play a crucial role in both stabilizing the insulating state and in determining the interlayer magnetic interaction. Indeed, an analysis based on maximally localized Wannier functions allows one to evaluate the interlayer exchange interactions in two different VI3 stackings (labeled AB and AB′), to interpret the results in terms of the virtual-hopping mechanism, and to highlight the strongest hopping channels underlying the magnetic interlayer coupling. Upon application of electric fields perpendicular to the slab, we find that the magnetic ground state in the AB′ stacking can be switched from antiferromagnetic to ferromagnetic, suggesting the VI3 bilayer as an appealing candidate for electric-field-driven miniaturized spintronic devices.
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.
Chirality and magnetism of molecules are two properties that in the last years raised notable interest for the development of novel molecular devices. Chiral helicenes combine these functionalities, and their nanostructuration is the first step toward developing new multifunctional devices. Here, we present a novel assembling strategy to deposit a sub‐monolayer of enantiopure thiahelicene radical cations on a pre‐functionalized Au(111) substrate permitting the persistence of both the paramagnetic character and chirality of these molecules at the nanoscale. In‐house characterizations demonstrated the retention of the chemical and paramagnetic properties after the deposition process. Furthermore, synchrotron‐based X‐ray natural circular dichroism confirmed that the handedness of the thiahelicene is preserved on the surface.
Preferential oxidation of CO (COPrOx) is a catalytic reaction targeting the removal of trace amounts of CO from hydrogen-rich gas mixtures. Non-noble metal catalysts, such as Cu and Co, can be equally active to Pt for the reaction; however, their commercialization is limited by their poor stability. We have recently shown that CoO is the most active state of cobalt for COPrOx, but under certain reaction conditions, it is readily oxidized to Co3O4 and deactivates. Here, we report a simple method to stabilize the Co2+ state by vanadium addition. The V-promoted cobalt catalyst exhibits considerably higher activity and stability than pure cobalt. The nature of the catalytic active sites during COPrOx was established by operando NAP-XPS and NEXAFS, while the stability of the Co2+ state on the surface was verified by in situ NEXAFS at 1 bar pressure. The active phase consists of an ultra-thin cobalt-vanadate surface layer, containing tetrahedral V5+ and octahedral Co2+ cations, with an electronic and geometric structure that is deviating from the standard mixed bulk oxides. In addition, V addition helps to maintain the population of Co2+ species involved in the reaction, inhibiting carbonate species formation that are responsible for the deactivation. The promoting effect of V is discussed in terms of enhancement of CoO redox stability on the surface induced by electronic and structural modifications. These results demonstrate that V-promoted cobalt is a promising COPrOx catalyst and validate the application of in situ spectroscopy to provide the concept for designing better performing catalysts.
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.
THORONDOR is a data treatment software with a graphical user interface (GUI) accessible via the browser‐based Jupyter notebook framework. It aims to provide an interactive and user‐friendly tool for the analysis of NEXAFS spectra collected during in situ experiments. The program allows on‐the‐fly representation and quick correction of large datasets from single or multiple experiments. In particular, it provides the possibility to align in energy several spectral profiles on the basis of user‐defined references. Various techniques to calculate background subtraction and signal normalization have been made available. In this context, an innovation of this GUI involves the usage of a slider‐based approach that provides the ability to instantly manipulate and visualize processed data for the user. Finally, the program is characterized by an advanced fitting toolbox based on the lmfit package. It offers a large selection of fitting routines as well as different peak distributions and empirical ionization potential step edges, which can be used for the fit of the NEXAFS rising‐edge peaks. Statistical parameters describing the goodness of a fit such as χ2 or the R‐factor together with the parameter uncertainty distributions and the related correlations can be extracted for each chosen model.
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.
We study the 2×2 charge density wave (CDW) in epitaxially-grown monolayer TiSe2. Our temperature-dependent angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy measurements indicate a strong-coupling instability, but reveal how not all states couple equally to the symmetry-breaking distortion, with an electron pocket persisting to low temperature as a non-bonding state. We further show how the CDW order can be suppressed by a modest doping of around 0.06(2) electrons per Ti. Our results provide an opportunity for quantitative comparison with a realistic tight-binding model, which emphasises a crucial role of structural aspects of the phase transition in understanding the hybridisation in the ground state. Together, our work provides a comprehensive understanding of the phenomenology of the CDW in TiSe2 in the 2D limit.
Two-dimensional (2D) alloys represent a versatile platform that extends the properties of atomically thin transition-metal dichalcogenides. Here, using molecular beam epitaxy, we investigate the growth of 2D vanadium-molybdenum diselenide alloys, VxMo1–xSe2, on highly oriented pyrolytic graphite and unveil their structural, chemical, and electronic integrities via measurements by scanning tunneling microscopy/spectroscopy, synchrotron X-ray photoemission, and X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS). Essentially, we found a critical value of x = ∼0.44, below which phase separation occurs and above which a homogeneous metallic phase is favored. Another observation is an effective increase in the density of mirror twin boundaries of constituting MoSe2 in the low V concentration regime (x ≤ 0.05). Density functional theory calculations support our experimental results on the thermal stability of 2D VxMo1–xSe2 alloys and suggest an H phase of the homogeneous alloys with alternating parallel V and Mo strips randomly in-plane stacked. Element-specific XAS of the 2D alloys, which clearly indicates quenched atomic multiplets similar to the case of 2H-VSe2, provides strong evidence for the H phase of the 2D alloys. This work provides a comprehensive understanding of the thermal stability, chemical state, and electronic structure of 2D VxMo1–xSe2 alloys, useful for the future design of 2D electronic devices.
Ti silicates, and in particular Titanium Silicalite‐1 (TS‐1), are nowadays important catalysts for several partial oxidation reactions in the presence of aqueous H 2 O 2 as oxidant. Despite the numerous studies dealing with this material, some fundamental aspects are still unfathomed. In particular, the structure and the catalytic role of defective Ti sites, other than perfect tetrahedral sites recognized as main active species, has not been quantitatively discussed in the literature. In this work, we assess the structural features of defective Ti sites on the basis of electronic spectroscopies outcomes, as interpreted through quantum‐mechanical simulation. We disclose here strong evidences that the most common defective Ti sites, often reported in the TS‐1 literature, are monomeric Ti centers, embedded in the zeolite framework, having a distorted octahedral local symmetry.
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.
The mechanisms of CO oxidation on the Mg0.2Co0.2Ni0.2Cu0.2Zn0.2O high entropy oxide were studied by means of operando soft X-ray absorption spectroscopy. We found that Cu is the active metal, and that Cu(II) can be rapidly reduced to Cu(I) by CO when the temperature is larger than 130 °C. Co and Ni do not have any role in this respect. The Cu(II) oxidation state can be easily but slowly recovered by treating the sample in O2 at ca. 250 °C. However, it should be noted that CuO is readily and irreversibly reduced to Cu(I) if treated in CO at T>100 °C. Thus, the main conclusion of this work is that the high configurational entropy of Mg0.2Co0.2Ni0.2Cu0.2Zn0.2O stabilizes the rock-salt structure and permits the oxidation/reduction of Cu to be reversible, thus permitting the catalytic cycle to take place.
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 tetragonal phase of chromium (III) oxide, although unstable in the bulk, can be synthesized in epitaxial heterostructures. Theoretical investigation by density-functional theory predicts an antiferromagnetic ground state for this compound. We demonstrate experimentally antiferromagnetism up to 40 K in ultrathin films of t−Cr2O3 by electrical measurements exploiting interface effect within a neighboring ultrathin Pt layer. We show that magnetotransport in Pt is affected by both spin-Hall magnetoresistance and magnetic proximity effect while we exclude any role of magnetism for the low-temperature resistance anomaly observed in Pt.
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.
Whenever one is interested in making high temperature superconductor-based devices, the goodness of the sample surface in terms of structural and electrical properties is a strong issue. In fact, it is well known that the surface of high Tc superconducting samples is not bulk-representative, due to air contamination and to the possible presence of oxygen vacancies. In addition, the quality of the surface layer results to be crucial in surface sensitive measurements as in X-ray photoelectron and Angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy. Recently, some studies have been dedicated to the realization of devices based on electron-doped cuprates, bilayers and nanowires, showing the actual possibility to realize good quality junctions by using these cuprates. In this work, we report on the fabrication of thin films of the electron-doped Nd2−xCexCuO4±δ compound and analyze the surface natural barrier of as-grown films by means of point contact spectroscopy measurements. Suitable treatments of samples in an ozone rich atmosphere have been developed in order to improve the surface quality of the films. Auger electron spectroscopy has been used to monitor the effectiveness of these treatments.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Interfaces play a crucial role in the study of novel phenomena emerging at heterostructures comprising metals and functional oxides. For this reason, attention should be paid to the interface chemistry, which can favor the interdiffusion of atomic species and, under certain conditions, lead to the formation of radically different compounds with respect to the original constituents. In this work, we consider Cr/
BaTiO3 heterostructures grown on SrTiO3 (100) substrates. Chromium thin films (1–2 nm thickness) are deposited by molecular beam epitaxy on the
BaTiO3 layer, and subsequently annealed in vacuum at temperatures ranging from 473 to 773 K. A disordered metallic layer is detected for annealing temperatures up to 573 K, whereas, at higher temperatures, we observe a progressive oxidation of chromium, which we relate to the thermally activated migration of oxygen from the substrate. The chromium oxidation state is +3 and the film shows a defective rocksalt structure, which grows lattice matched on the underlying BaTiO3 layer. One out of every three atoms of chromium is missing, producing an uncommon tetragonal phase with Cr2O3 stoichiometry. Despite the structural difference with respect to the ordinary corundum α-Cr2O3 phase, we demonstrate both experimentally and theoretically that the electronic properties of the two phases are, to a large extent, equivalent.
We investigate the solvatochromic effect of a Fe-based spin-crossover (SCO) compound via ambient pressure soft X-ray absorption spectroscopy (AP-XAS) and atomic force microscopy (AFM). AP-XAS provides the direct evidence of the spin configuration for the Fe(II) 3d states of the SCO material upon in situ exposure to specific gas or vapor mixtures; concurrent changes in nanoscale topography and mechanical characteristics are revealed via AFM imaging and AFM-based force spectroscopy, respectively. We find that exposing the SCO material to gaseous helium promotes an effective decrease of the transition temperature of its surface layers, while the exposure to methanol vapor causes opposite surfacial and bulk solvatochromic effects. Surfacial solvatochromism is accompanied by a dramatic reduction of the surface layers stiffness. We propose a rationalization of the observed effects based on interfacial dehydration and solvation phenomena.
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.
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.
The conduction and optoelectronic properties of transparent conductive oxides can be largely modified by intentional inclusion of dopants over a very large range of concentrations. However, the simultaneous presence of structural defects results in an unpredictable complexity that prevents a clear identification of chemical and structural properties of the final samples. By exploiting the unique chemical sensitivity of Hard X-ray Photoelectron Spectra and Near Edge X-ray Absorption Fine Structure in combination with Density Functional Theory, we determine the contribution to the spectroscopic response of defects in Al-doped ZnO films. Satellite peaks in O1s and modifications at the O K-edge allow the determination of the presence of H embedded in ZnO and the very low concentration of Zn vacancies and O interstitials in undoped ZnO. Contributions coming from substitutional and (above the solubility limit) interstitial Al atoms have been clearly identified and have been related to changes in the oxide stoichiometry and increased oxygen coordination, together with small lattice distortions. In this way defects and doping in oxide films can be controlled, in order to tune their properties and improve their performances.
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.
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.
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.
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.