V2O3 presents a complex interrelationship between the metal–insulator transition and the structural rhombohedral-monoclinic one in temperature, as a function of sample thickness. Whilst in bulk V2O3 the two transitions coincide on the temperature scale, at 15 nm thickness a fully independent Mott-like transition occurs at lower temperature, with no corresponding structural changes perhaps related to epitaxial strain. It is therefore of relevance to investigate the thin and ultrathin film growth to pinpoint the chemical, electronic and structural phase phenomenology and the role of the interface with the substrate. Here we present results on the thickness dependent properties of V2O3 from 1 nm up to 40 nm thick as grown on c-plane Al2O3 substrates by exploiting variable sampling depth probes. The surface morphology of stoichiometric ultra-thin V2O3 layers evolves from islands-like to continuous flat film with thickness, with implications on the overall properties.
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.
Phase transitions are key in determining and controlling the quantum properties of correlated materials. Here, by using the combination of material synthesis and photoelectron spectroscopy, we demonstrate a genuine Mott transition undressed of any symmetry breaking side effects in the thin films of V2O3. In particular and in contrast with the bulk V2O3, we unveil the purely electronic dynamics approaching the metal–insulator transition, disentangled from the structural transformation that is prevented by the residual substrate-induced strain. On approaching the transition, the spectral signal evolves slowly over a wide temperature range, the Fermi wave-vector does not change, and the critical temperature is lower than the one reported for the bulk. Our findings are fundamental in demonstrating the universal benchmarks of a genuine nonsymmetry breaking Mott transition, extendable to a large array of correlated quantum systems, and hold promise of exploiting the metal–insulator transition by implementing V2O3 thin films in devices.
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.
Machine-learning techniques are revolutionizing the way to perform efficient materials modeling. We here propose a combinatorial machine-learning approach to obtain physical formulas based on simple and easily accessible ingredients, such as atomic properties. The latter are used to build materials features that are finally employed, through linear regression, to predict the energetic stability of semiconducting binary compounds with respect to zinc blende and rocksalt crystal structures. The adopted models are trained using a dataset built from first-principles calculations. Our results show that already one-dimensional (1D) formulas well describe the energetics; a simple grid-search optimization of the automatically obtained 1D-formulas enhances the prediction performance at a very small computational cost. In addition, our approach allows one to highlight the role of the different atomic properties involved in the formulas. The computed formulas clearly indicate that “spatial” atomic properties (i.e., radii indicating maximum probability densities for 𝑠,𝑝,𝑑 electronic shells) drive the stabilization of one crystal structure with respect to the other, suggesting the major relevance of the radius associated with the 𝑝-shell of the cation species.
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
The structural, electronic, and magnetic properties of Sr-hole-doped epitaxial La1–xSrxMnO3 (0.15 ≤ x ≤ 0.45) thin films deposited using the molecular beam epitaxy technique on 4° vicinal STO (001) substrates are probed by the combination of X-ray diffraction and various synchrotron-based spectroscopy techniques. The structural characterizations evidence a significant shift in the LSMO (002) peak to the higher diffraction angles owing to the increase in Sr doping concentrations in thin films. The nature of the LSMO Mn mixed-valence state was estimated from X-ray photoemission spectroscopy together with the relative changes in the Mn L2,3 edges observed in X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS), both strongly affected by doping. CTM4XAS simulations at the XAS Mn L2,3 edges reveal the combination of epitaxial strain, and different MnO6 crystal field splitting give rise to a peak at ∼641 eV. The observed changes in the occupancy of the eg and the t2g orbitals as well as their binding energy positions toward the Fermi level with hole doping are discussed. The room-temperature magnetic properties were probed at the end by circular dichroism.
We report the integration of high-quality epitaxial La2/3Sr1/3MnO3 (LSMO) thin films onto SrTiO3 buffered Silicon-on-Sapphire (SOS) substrates by combining state-of-the-art thin film growth techniques such as molecular beam epitaxy and pulsed laser deposition. Detailed structural, magnetic and electrical characterizations of the LSMO/STO/SOS heterostructures show that the LSMO film properties are competitive with those directly grown on oxide substrates. X-ray magnetic circular dichroism measurements on Mn L2,3 edges show strong dichroic signal at room temperature, and angular-dependent in-plane magnetic properties by magneto-optical Kerr magnetometry reveal isotropic magnetic anisotropy. Suspended micro-bridges were thus finally fabricated by silicon micromachining, thus demonstrating the potential use of integrating LSMO magnetic layer on industrially compatible SOS substrates for the development of applicative MEMS devices.
The occurrence of oxygen-driven metal–insulator-transition (MIT) in SrNbO3 (SNO) thin films epitaxially grown on (110)-oriented DyScO3 has been reported. SNO films are fabricated by the pulsed laser deposition technique at different partial O2 pressure to vary the oxygen content and their structural, optical, and transport properties are probed. SNO unit cell has been found to shrink vertically as the oxygen content increases but keeping the epitaxial matching with the substrate. The results of Fourier-transform infra-red spectroscopy show that highly oxygenated SNO samples (i.e., grown at high oxygen pressure) show distinct optical conductivity behavior with respect to oxygen deficient films, hence demonstrating the insulating character of the formers with respect to those fabricated with lower pressure conditions. Tailoring the optical absorption and conductivity of strontium niobate epitaxial films across the MIT will favor novel applications of this material.
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.
V2O3 has long been studied as a prototypical strongly correlated material. The difficulty in obtaining clean, well ordered surfaces, however, hindered the use of surface sensitive techniques to study its electronic structure. Here we show by means of X-ray diffraction and electrical transport that thin films prepared by pulsed laser deposition can reproduce the functionality of bulk V2O3. The same films, when transferred in-situ, show an excellent surface quality as indicated by scanning tunnelling microscopy and low energy electron diffraction, representing a viable approach to study the metal-insulator transition in V2O3 by means of angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy. Combined, these two aspects pave the way for the use of V2O3 thin films in device-oriented heterostructures.
The understanding of the origin of a two-dimensional electron gas (2DEG) at the surface of anatase TiO2 remains a challenging issue. In particular, in TiO2 ultra-thin films, it is extremely difficult to distinguish intrinsic effects, due to the physics of the TiO2, from extrinsic effects, such as those arising from structural defects, dislocations, and the presence of competing phases at the film/substrate interface. It is, therefore, mandatory to unambiguously ascertain the structure of the TiO2/substrate interface. In this work, by combining high angle annular dark-field scanning transmission electron microscopy (HAADF-STEM), density functional theory calculations, and multislice image simulations, we have investigated the nature of strainless anatase TiO2 thin films grown on LaAlO3 substrate. In particular, the presence of oxygen vacancies in anatase TiO2 has been proved to stabilize the formation of an extra alloy layer, Ti2AlO4, by means of interface rearrangement. Our results, therefore, elucidate why the growth of anatase TiO2 directly on LaAlO3 substrate has required the deposition of a TiOx extra-layer to have a 2DEG established, thus confirming the absence of a critical thickness for the TiO2 to stabilize a 2DEG at its surface. These findings provide fundamental insights on the underlying formation mechanism of the 2DEG in TiO2/LAO hetero-interfaces to engineer the 2DEG formation in anatase TiO2 for tailored applications.
We unravel the interplay of topological properties and the layered (anti)ferromagnetic ordering in EuSn2P2, using spin and chemical selective electron and X-ray spectroscopies supported by first-principle calculations. We reveal the presence of in-plane long-range ferromagnetic order triggering topological invariants and resulting in the multiple protection of topological Dirac states. We provide clear evidence that layer-dependent spin-momentum locking coexists with ferromagnetism in this material, a cohabitation that promotes EuSn2P2 as a prime candidate axion insulator for topological antiferromagnetic spintronics applications.
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.
The properties of half-metallic manganite thin films depend on the composition and structure in the atomic scale, and consequently, their potential functional behavior can only be based on fine structure characterization. By combining advanced transmission electron microscopy, electron energy loss spectroscopy, density functional theory calculations, and multislice image simulations, we obtained evidence of a 7 nm-thick interface layer in La0.7Sr0.3MnO3 (LSMO) thin films, compatible with the formation of well-known dead layers in manganites, with an elongated out-of-plane lattice parameter and structural and electronic properties well distinguished from the bulk of the film. We observed, for the first time, a structural shift of Mn ions coupled with oxygen vacancies and a reduced Mn valence state within such layer. Understanding the correlation between oxygen vacancies, the Mn oxidation state, and Mn-ion displacements is a prerequisite to engineer the magnetotransport properties of LSMO thin films.
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.
In this work, we apply for the first time ambient pressure operando soft X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) to investigate the location, structural properties, and reactivity of the defective sites present in the prototypical metal–organic framework HKUST-1. We obtained direct evidence that Cu+ defective sites form upon temperature treatment of the powdered form of HKUST-1 at 160 °C and that they are largely distributed on the material surface. Further, a thorough structural characterization of the Cu+/Cu2+ dimeric complexes arising from the temperature-induced dehydration/decarboxylation of the pristine Cu2+/Cu2+ paddlewheel units is reported. In addition to characterizing the surface defects, we demonstrate that CO2 may be reversibly adsorbed and desorbed from the surface defective Cu+/Cu2+ sites. These findings show that ambient pressure soft-XAS, combined with state-of-the-art theoretical calculations, allowed us to shed light on the mechanism involving the decarboxylation of the paddlewheel units on the surface to yield Cu+/Cu2+ complexes and their reversible restoration upon exposure to gaseous CO2.
The effects of competing magnetic interactions in stabilizing different spin configurations are drawing renewed attention in order to unveil emerging topological spin textures and to highlight microscopic mechanisms leading to their stabilization. The possible key role of the two-site exchange anisotropy in selecting specific helicity and vorticity of skyrmionic lattices has only recently been proposed. In this work, we explore the phase diagram of a frustrated localized magnet characterized by a two-dimensional centrosymmetric triangular lattice, focusing on the interplay between the two-ion anisotropy and the single-ion anisotropy. The effects of an external magnetic field applied perpendicularly to the magnetic layer, are also investigated. By means of Monte Carlo simulations, we find an abundance of different spin configurations, going from trivial to high-order Q skyrmionic and meronic lattices. In closer detail, we find that a dominant role is played by the two-ion over the single-ion anisotropy in determining the planar spin texture; the strength and the sign of single ion anisotropy, together with the magnitude of the magnetic field, tune the perpendicular spin components, mostly affecting the polarity (and, in turn, the topology) of the spin texture. Our analysis confirms the crucial role of the anisotropic symmetric exchange in systems with dominant short-range interactions; at the same time, we predict a rich variety of complex magnetic textures, which may arise from a fine tuning of competing anisotropic mechanisms.
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.
We investigated the relationship between ferromagnetism and metallicity in strained La0.67Ca0.33MnO3 films grown on lattice-mismatched NdGaO3 (001) by means of spectroscopic techniques directly sensitive to the ferromagnetic state, to the band structure, and to the chemical state of the atoms. In this system, the ferromagnetic metallic (FMM) phase spatially coexists with an insulating one in most of the phase diagram. First, the observation of an almost 100% spin polarization of the photoelectrons at the Fermi level in the fundamental state provides direct evidence of the half-metallicity of the FMM phase, a result that has been previously observed through direct probing of the valence band only on unstrained, phase-homogeneous La0.67Sr0.33MnO3. Second, the spin polarization results to be correlated with the occupancy at the Fermi level for all the investigated temperature regimes. These outcomes show that the half-metallic behavior predicted by a double-exchange model persists even in phase-separated manganites. Moreover, the correlation between metallicity and ferromagnetic alignment is confirmed by X-ray magnetic circular dichroism, a more bulk-sensitive technique, allowing one to explain transport properties in terms of the conduction through aligned FMM domains.
Probing the energy and spin electron properties of materials by means of photoemission spectroscopy gives insights into the low-energy phenomena of matter driven by spin orbit coupling or exchange interaction. The information that can be derived from complete photoelectron spectroscopy experiments, beyond E(k), is contained in the photoemission transition matrix elements that determine peak intensities. We present here a complete photoemission study of the spin-polarized bands of 2H−NbSe2, a material that presents a surface spin-texture. Circular dichroism in angular-resolved photoemission spectroscopy (CD-ARPES) data are compared with spin-polarized angular-resolved spectra (SARPES) as measured with linearly polarized radiation in a well-characterized experimental chirality, at selected photon energy values. CD-ARPES is due to a matrix element effect that depends strongly on photon energy and experimental geometry: we show that it cannot be used to infer intrinsic spin properties in 2H−NbSe2. On the other hand, SARPES data provide reliable direct information on the spin properties of the electron states. The results on 2H−NbSe2 are discussed, and general methodological conclusions are drawn on the best experimental approach to the determination of the spin texture of quantum materials.
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.
Quantum materials are central for the development of novel functional systems that are often based on interface specific phenomena. Fabricating controlled interfaces between quantum materials requires adopting a flexible growth technique capable to synthesize different materials within a single-run deposition process with high control of structure, stoichiometry, and termination. Among the various available thin film growth technologies, pulsed laser deposition (PLD) allows controlling the growth of diverse materials at the level of single atomic layers. In PLD the atomic species are supplied through an ablation process of a stoichiometric target either in form of polycrystalline powders or of a single crystal. No carrier gases are needed in the deposition process. The ablation process is compatible with a wide range of background pressure. We present results of thin-film growth by PLD obtained by using an Nd:YAG infrared pulsed laser source operating at its first harmonics. With respect to the traditional PLD systems—based on excimer KrF UV-lasers—optimal conditions for the growth of thin films and heterostructures are reached at large target-to-substrate distance. Merits and limitations of this approach for growing oxide and non-oxide thin films are discussed. The merits of an Nd:YAG laser to grow very high-quality thin films suggest the possibility of implementing compact in-situ setups e.g. integrated with analytical instrumentation under ultra-high vacuum conditions.
In this work, we investigate the effects of the V2O3 structural phase transition on the magnetic properties of an amorphous magnetic thin film of CoFeB in contact with it. V2O3 thin films are deposited epitaxially on sapphire substrates, reaching bulklike properties after few nm of growth. By means of temperature dependent Kerr effect characterizations, we prove that crossing the V2O3 structural phase transition induces reproducible and reversible changes to CoFeB magnetic properties, especially to its coercive field. By decreasing the oxide layer thickness, its effects on the magnetic layer decreases, while reducing the magnetic layer thickness maximizes it, with a maximum of 330% coercive field variation found between the two V2O3 structural phases. By simply tuning the temperature, this systematic study shows that the engineering of V2O3 structural transition induces large interfacial strain and thus strong magnetic property variations to an amorphous thin film, opening wide possibilities in implementing strain-driven control of the magnetic behavior without strict requirements on epitaxial coherence at the interface.
The role of X-ray based electron spectroscopies in determining chemical, electronic, and magnetic properties of solids has been well-known for several decades. A powerful approach is angle-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy, whereby the kinetic energy and angle of photoelectrons emitted from a sample surface are measured. This provides a direct measurement of the electronic band structure of crystalline solids. Moreover, it yields powerful insights into the electronic interactions at play within a material and into the control of spin, charge, and orbital degrees of freedom, central pillars of future solid state science. With strong recent focus on research of lower-dimensional materials and modified electronic behavior at surfaces and interfaces, angle-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy has become a core technique in the study of quantum materials. In this review, we provide an introduction to the technique. Through examples from several topical materials systems, including topological insulators, transition metal dichalcogenides, and transition metal oxides, we highlight the types of information which can be obtained. We show how the combination of angle, spin, time, and depth-resolved experiments are able to reveal “hidden” spectral features, connected to semiconducting, metallic and magnetic properties of solids, as well as underlining the importance of dimensional effects in quantum materials.
Research on ultrathin quantum materials requires full control of the growth and surface quality of the specimens in order to perform experiments on their atomic structure and electron states leading to ultimate analysis of their intrinsic properties. We report results on epitaxial FeSe thin films grown by pulsed laser deposition (PLD) on CaF2 (001) substrates as obtained by exploiting the advantages of an all-in-situ ultra-high vacuum (UHV) laboratory allowing for direct high-resolution surface analysis by scanning tunnelling microscopy (STM), synchrotron radiation X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy (ARPES) on fresh surfaces. FeSe PLD growth protocols were fine-tuned by optimizing target-to-substrate distance d and ablation frequency, atomically flat terraces with unit-cell step heights are obtained, overcoming the spiral morphology often observed by others. In-situ ARPES with linearly polarized horizontal and vertical radiation shows hole-like and electron-like pockets at the Γ and M points of the Fermi surface, consistent with previous observations on cleaved single crystal surfaces. The control achieved in growing quantum materials with volatile elements such as Se by in-situ PLD makes it possible to address the fine analysis of the surfaces by in-situ ARPES and XPS. The study opens wide avenues for the PLD based heterostructures as work-bench for the understanding of proximity-driven effects and for the development of prospective devices based on combinations of quantum materials.
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.
The electronic properties of hole- and electron-doped manganites were probed by a combination of x-ray absorption and photoemission spectroscopies. Hole-doped La0.7Ba0.3MnO3 and electron-doped La0.7Ce0.3MnO3 thin films were epitaxially grown on SrTiO3 substrates by means of pulsed laser deposition. Ex-situ x-ray diffraction demonstrated the substrate/film epitaxy relation and in-situ low energy electron diffraction provided evidence of high structural order of film surfaces. By combining synchrotron x-ray absorption and x-ray photoemission spectroscopy, evidence of Mn ions into a 2+ state as a result of the Ce substitution in the electron-doped manganites was provided. Angular resolved photo-emission spectroscopy (ARPES) results showed a predominance of z2-orbitals at the surface of both hole- and, unexpectedly, electron-doped manganites thus questioning the validity of the commonly accepted scenario describing the electron filling in manganites’ 3d orbitals in oxide manganites. The precise determination of the electronic and orbital properties of the terminating layers of oxide manganites paves the way for engineering multi-layered heterostructures thus leading to novel opportunities in the field of quantum electronics.
Topological spin structures, such as magnetic skyrmions, hold great promises for data storage applications, thanks to their inherent stability. In most cases, skyrmions are stabilized by magnetic fields in non-centrosymmetric systems displaying the chiral Dzyaloshinskii-Moriya exchange interaction, while spontaneous skyrmion lattices have been reported in centrosymmetric itinerant magnets with long-range interactions. Here, a spontaneous anti-biskyrmion lattice with unique topology and chirality is predicted in the monolayer of a semiconducting and centrosymmetric metal halide, NiI2. Our first-principles and Monte Carlo simulations reveal that the anisotropies of the short-range symmetric exchange, when combined with magnetic frustration, can lead to an emergent chiral interaction that is responsible for the predicted topological spin structures. The proposed mechanism finds a prototypical manifestation in two-dimensional magnets, thus broadening the class of materials that can host spontaneous skyrmionic states. Skyrmions, topological spin textures, are typically stabilized by the Dzyaloshinskii-Moriya interaction and an applied magnetic field. In this theoretical study, by analysing monolayer NiI2, the authors suggest that two-site anisotropy with magnetic frustration can stabilize a skyrmion lattice.
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.
Oxygen vacancies are known to play a crucial role in tuning the physical properties and technological applications of titanium dioxide TiO2. Over the last decades, defects in substoichiometric TiO2 have been commonly associated with the formation of TinO2n–x Magnéli phases, which are extended planar defects originating from crystallographic shear planes. By combining advanced transmission electron microscopy techniques, electron energy-loss spectroscopy and atomistic simulations, we reach new understanding of the oxygen vacancy induced structural modulations in anatase, ruling out the earlier shear-plane model. Structural modulations are instead shown to be due to the formation of oxygen vacancy superstructures that extend periodically inside the films, preserving the crystalline order of anatase. Elucidating the structure of oxygen defects in anatase is a crucial step for improving the functionalities of such material system and to engineer devices with targeted properties.
Here, we present an integrated ultra-high vacuum apparatus—named MBE-Cluster —dedicated to the growth and in situ structural, spectroscopic, and magnetic characterization of complex materials. Molecular Beam Epitaxy (MBE) growth of metal oxides, e.g., manganites, and deposition of the patterned metallic layers can be fabricated and in situ characterized by reflection high-energy electron diffraction, low-energy electron diffraction, Auger electron spectroscopy, x-ray photoemission spectroscopy, and azimuthal longitudinal magneto-optic Kerr effect. The temperature can be controlled in the range from 5 K to 580 K, with the possibility of application of magnetic fields H up to ±7 kOe and electric fields E for voltages up to ±500 V. The MBE-Cluster operates for in-house research as well as user facility in combination with the APE beamlines at Sincrotrone-Trieste and the high harmonic generator facility for time-resolved spectroscopy.
The electronic properties of strontium ruthenate SrRuO3perovskite oxide thin filmsare modified by epitaxial strain, as determined by growing on different substrates by pulsedlaser deposition. Temperature dependence of the transport properties indicates that tensilestrain deformation of the SrRuO3unit cell reduces the metallicity of the material as well as itsmetal-insulator-transition (MIT) temperature. On the contrary, the shrinkage of the Ru–O–Rubuckling angle due to compressive strain is counterweighted by the increased overlap of theconduction Ru-4d orbitals with the O-2p ones due to the smaller interatomic distances resulting intoan increased MIT temperature, i.e., a more conducting material. In particular, in the more metallicsamples, the core level X-ray photoemission spectroscopy lineshapes show the occurrence of anextra-peak at the lower binding energies of the main Ru-3d peak that is attributed to screening,as observed in volume sensitive photoemission of the unstrained material.
Out-of-plane Ga2Se3 nanowires are grown by molecular beam epitaxy via Au-assisted heterovalent exchange reaction on GaAs substrates in the absence of Ga deposition. It is shown that at a suitable temperature around 560 degrees C the Audecorated GaAs substrate releases Ga atoms, which react with the incoming Se and feed the nanowire growth. The nanowire composition, crystal structure, and morphology are characterized by Raman spectroscopy and electron microscopy. The growth mechanism is investigated by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. We explore the growth parameter window and find an interesting effect of shortening of the nanowires after a certain maximum length. The nanowire growth is described within a diffusion transport model, which explains the nonmonotonic behavior of the nanowire length versus the growth parameters. Nanowire shortening is explained by the blocking of Ga supply from the GaAs substrate by thick, in-plane worm-like Ga2Se3 structures, which grow concomitantly with the nanowires, followed by backward diffusion of Ga atoms from the nanowires down to the substrate surface.
Ambient pressure operando soft X-ray absorption spectroscopy (soft-XAS) was applied to study the reactivity of hydroxylated SnO2 nanoparticles towards reducing gases. H2 was first used as a test case, showing that gas phase and surface states can be simultaneously probed: soft-XAS at the O K-edge gains sensitivity towards the gas phase, while at the Sn M4,5-edges tin surface states are explicitly probed. Results obtained by flowing hydrocarbons (CH4 and CH3CHCH2) unequivocally show that these gases react with surface hydroxyl groups to produce water without producing carbon oxides, and release electrons that localize on Sn to eventually form SnO. The partially reduced SnO2-x layer at the surface of SnO2 is readily reoxidised to SnO2 by treating the sample with O2 at mild temperatures (> 200 °C), revealing the nature of “electron sponge” of tin oxide. The experiments, combined with DFT calculations, allowed devising a mechanism for dissociative hydrocarbon adsorption on SnO2, involving direct reduction of Sn sites at the surface via cleavage of C-H bonds, and the formation of methoxy- and/or methyl-tin species at the surface.
Bulk PtSn4 has recently attracted the interest of the scientific community for the presence of electronic states exhibiting Dirac node arcs, enabling possible applications in nanoelectronics. Here, by means of surface-science experiments and density functional theory, we assess its suitability for catalysis by studying the chemical reactivity of the (0 1 0)-oriented PtSn4 surface toward CO, H2O, O2 molecules at room temperature and, moreover, its stability in air. We demonstrate that the catalytic activity of PtSn4 is determined by the composition of the outermost atomic layer. Specifically, we find that the surface termination for PtSn4 crystals cleaved in vacuum is an atomic Sn layer, which is totally free from any CO poisoning. In oxygen-rich environment, as well as in ambient atmosphere, the surface termination is a SnOx skin including SnO and SnO2 in comparable amount. However, valence-band states, including those forming Dirac node arcs, are only slightly affected by surface modifications. The astonishingly beneficial influence of surface oxidation on catalytic activity has been demonstrated by electrocatalytic tests evidencing a reduction of the Tafel slope, from 442 down to 86 mV dec−1, whose origin has been explained by our theoretical model. The use of surface-science tools to tune the chemical reactivity of PtSn4 opens the way toward its effective use in catalysis, especially for hydrogen evolution reaction and oxygen evolution reaction.
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.
The electronic properties of anatase titanium dioxide (TiO2) thin films epitaxially grown on LaAlO3 substrates are investigated by synchrotron-x-ray spectroscopy [x-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS), x-ray photoemission spectroscopy (XPS), and angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy (ARPES)] and infrared spectroscopy. The Ti3+ fraction in TiO2−x is varied either by changing the oxygen pressure during deposition or by postgrowth annealing in ultrahigh vacuum (UHV). Structural investigation of the TiO2 thin films provides evidence of highly uniform crystallographic order in both as-grown and in situ UHV-annealed samples. The increased amount of Ti3+ as a consequence of UHV annealing is calibrated by in situ XPS and XAS analysis. The as-grown TiO2 samples, with a low Ti3+ concentration, show distinct electronic properties with respect to the annealed films, namely, absorption in the midinfrared (MIR) region correlated with polaron formation, and another peak in the visible range at 1.6 eV correlated with the presence of localized defect states (DSs). With the increasing level of Ti3+ induced by the postannealing process, the MIR peak disappears, while the DS peak is redshifted to the near-infrared region at about 1.0 eV. These results indicate the possibility of tailoring the optical absorption of anatase TiO2 films from the visible to the near-infrared region.
Two-dimensional (2D) metallic states induced by oxygen vacancies (VOs) at oxide surfaces and interfaces provide opportunities for the development of advanced applications, but the ability to control the behavior of these states is still limited. We used angle resolved photoelectron spectroscopy combined with density-functional theory (DFT) to study the reactivity of VO-induced states at the (001) surface of anatase TiO2, where both 2D metallic and deeper lying in-gap states (IGs) are observed. The 2D and IG states exhibit remarkably different evolutions when the surface is exposed to molecular O2: while IGs are almost completely quenched, the metallic states are only weakly affected. DFT calculations indeed show that the IGs originate from surface VOs and remain localized at the surface, where they can promptly react with O2. In contrast, the metallic states originate from subsurface vacancies whose migration to the surface for recombination with O2 is kinetically hindered on anatase TiO2 (001), thus making them much less sensitive to oxygen dosing.
We present the results of a photon energy and polarization dependent angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy (ARPES) study on high quality, epitaxial SrNbO3 thin films prepared in situ by pulsed laser deposition (PLD). We show that the Fermi surface is composed of three bands mainly due to t(2g) orbitals of Nb 4d, in analogy with the 3d-based perovskite systems. The bulk band dispersion for the conduction and valence states obtained by density functional theory (DFT) is generally consistent with the ARPES data. The small discrepancy in the bandwidth close to the Fermi level seems to result from the interplay of correlation effects and the presence of vacancies. The ARPES results are complemented by soft x-ray photoemission spectroscopy measurements in order to provide indications on the chemical states and the stoichiometry of the material.
Here, we report on a novel narrowband High Harmonic Generation (HHG) light source designed for ultrafast photoelectron spectroscopy (PES) on solids. Notably, at 16.9 eV photon energy, the harmonics bandwidth equals 19 meV. This result has been obtained by seeding the HHG process with 230 fs pulses at 515 nm. The ultimate energy resolution achieved on a polycrystalline Au sample at 40 K is ∼22 meV at 16.9 eV. These parameters set a new benchmark for narrowband HHG sources and have been obtained by varying the repetition rate up to 200 kHz and, consequently, mitigating the space charge, operating with ≈3×107 electrons/s and ≈5×108 photons/s. By comparing the harmonics bandwidth and the ultimate energy resolution with a pulse duration of ∼105 fs (as retrieved from time-resolved experiments on bismuth selenide), we demonstrate a new route for ultrafast space-charge-free PES experiments on solids close to transform-limit conditions.
Among transition-metal dichalcogenides, mono and few-layers thick VSe2 has gained much recent attention following claims of intrinsic room-temperature ferromagnetism in this system, which have nonetheless proved controversial. Here, we address the magnetic and chemical properties of Fe/VSe2 heterostructure by combining element sensitive x-ray absorption spectroscopy and photoemission spectroscopy. Our x-ray magnetic circular dichroism results confirm recent findings that both native mono/few-layer and bulk VSe2 do not show intrinsic ferromagnetic ordering. Nonetheless, we find that ferromagnetism can be induced, even at room temperature, after coupling with a Fe thin film layer, with antiparallel alignment of the moment on the V with respect to Fe. We further consider the chemical reactivity at the Fe/VSe2 interface and its relation with interfacial magnetic coupling.
Band inversions are key to stabilising a variety of novel electronic states in solids, from topological surface states to the formation of symmetry-protected three-dimensional Dirac and Weyl points and nodal-line semimetals. Here, we create a band inversion not of bulk states, but rather between manifolds of surface states. We realise this by aliovalent substitution of Nb for Zr and Sb for S in the ZrSiS family of nonsymmorphic semimetals. Using angle-resolved photoemission and density-functional theory, we show how two pairs of surface states, known from ZrSiS, are driven to intersect each other near the Fermi level in NbGeSb, and to develop pronounced spin splittings. We demonstrate how mirror symmetry leads to protected crossing points in the resulting spin-orbital entangled surface band structure, thereby stabilising surface state analogues of three-dimensional Weyl points. More generally, our observations suggest new opportunities for engineering topologically and symmetry-protected states via band inversions of surface states.
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.
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.
We combine time-resolved pump-probe magneto-optical Kerr effect and photoelectron spectroscopy experiments supported by theoretical analysis to determine the relaxation dynamics of delocalized electrons in half-metallic ferromagnetic manganite La1−xSrxMnO3. We observe that the half-metallic character of La1−xSrxMnO3 determines the timescale of both the electronic phase transition and the quenching of magnetization, revealing a quantum isolation of the spin system in double-exchange ferromagnets extending up to hundreds of picoseconds. We demonstrate the use of time-resolved hard x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy as a unique tool to single out the evolution of strongly correlated electronic states across a second-order phase transition in a complex material.
Polar lacunar spinels, such as GaV4S8 and GaV4Se8, were proposed to host skyrmion phases under magnetic field. In this work, we put forward, as a candidate for Néel-type skyrmion lattice, the isostructural GaMo4S8, which is systematically studied via both first-principles calculations and Monte Carlo simulations of a model Hamiltonian. Electric polarization, driven by the Jahn-Teller distortion, is predicted to arise in GaMo4S8, showing a comparable size but an opposite sign with respect to that evaluated in V-based counterparts and explained in terms of different electron counting arguments and resulting distortions. Interestingly, a larger spin-orbit coupling of 4d orbitals with respect to 3d orbitals in vanadium spinels leads to stronger Dzyaloshinskii-Moriya interactions, which are beneficial to stabilize a cycloidal spin texture, as well as smaller-sized skyrmions (radius<10nm). Furthermore, the possibly large exchange anisotropy of GaMo4S8 may lead to a ferroelectric-ferromagnetic ground state as an alternative to the ferroelectric-skyrmionic one, thus calling for further experimental verification.
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.
Currently, there is a flurry of research interest on materials with an unconventional electronic structure, and we have already seen significant progress in their understanding and engineering towards real-life applications. The interest erupted with the discovery of graphene and topological insulators in the previous decade. The electrons in graphene simulate massless Dirac Fermions with a linearly dispersing Dirac cone in their band structure, while in topological insulators, the electronic bands wind non-trivially in momentum space giving rise to gapless surface states and bulk bandgap. Weyl semimetals in condensed matter systems are the latest addition to this growing family of topological materials. Weyl Fermions are known in the context of high energy physics since almost the beginning of quantum mechanics. They apparently violate charge conservation rules, displaying the 'chiral anomaly', with such remarkable properties recently theoretically predicted and experimentally verified to exist as low energy quasiparticle states in certain condensed matter systems. Not only are these new materials extremely important for our fundamental understanding of quantum phenomena, but also they exhibit completely different transport phenomena. For example, massless Fermions are susceptible to scattering from non-magnetic impurities. Dirac semimetals exhibit non-saturating extremely large magnetoresistance as a consequence of their robust electronic bands being protected by time reversal symmetry. These open up whole new possibilities for materials engineering and applications including quantum computing. In this review, we recapitulate some of the outstanding properties of WTe2, namely, its non-saturating titanic magnetoresistance due to perfect electron and hole carrier balance up to a very high magnetic field observed for the very first time. It also indicative of hosting Lorentz violating type-II Weyl Fermions in its bandstructure, again first predicted candidate material to host such a remarkable phase. We primarily focus on the findings of our ARPES, spin-ARPES, and time-resolved ARPES studies complemented by first-principles calculations.
The band inversions that generate the topologically non-trivial band gaps of topological insulators and the isolated Dirac touching points of three-dimensional Dirac semimetals generally arise from the crossings of electronic states derived from different orbital manifolds. Recently, the concept of single orbital-manifold band inversions occurring along high-symmetry lines has been demonstrated, stabilising multiple bulk and surface Dirac fermions. Here, we discuss the underlying ingredients necessary to achieve such phases, and discuss their existence within the family of transition metal dichalcogenides. We show how their three-dimensional band structures naturally produce only small k z projected band gaps, and demonstrate how these play a significant role in shaping the surface electronic structure of these materials. We demonstrate, through spin- and angle-resolved photoemission and density functional theory calculations, how the surface electronic structures of the group-X TMDs PtSe2 and PdTe2 are host to up to five distinct surface states, each with complex band dispersions and spin textures. Finally, we discuss how the origin of several recently-realised instances of topological phenomena in systems outside of the TMDs, including the iron-based superconductors, can be understood as a consequence of the same underlying mechanism driving k z -mediated band inversions in the TMDs.
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.
By performing density functional theory and Green's functions calculations, complemented by x-ray photoemission spectroscopy, we investigate the electronic structure of Fe/GeTe(111), a prototypical ferromagnetic/Rashba-ferroelectric interface. We reveal that such a system exhibits several intriguing properties resulting from the complex interplay of exchange interaction, electric polarization, and spin-orbit coupling. Despite a rather strong interfacial hybridization between Fe and GeTe bands, resulting in a complete suppression of the surface states of the latter, the bulk Rashba bands are hardly altered by the ferromagnetic overlayer. This could have a deep impact on spin-dependent phenomena observed at this interface, such as spin-to-charge interconversion, which are likely to involve bulk rather than surface Rashba states.
Spintronics exploits the magnetoresistance effects to store or sense the magnetic information. Since the magnetoresistance strictly depends on the magnetic anisotropy of a system, it is fundamental to set a defined anisotropy to the system. Here, we investigate half-metallic La0.67Sr0.33MnO3 thin films by means of vectorial Magneto-Optical Kerr Magnetometry and found that they exhibit pure biaxial magnetic anisotropy at room temperature if grown onto a MgO (001) substrate with a thin SrTiO3 buffer. In this way, we can avoid unwanted uniaxial magnetic anisotropy contributions that may be detrimental for specific applications. The detailed study of the angular evolution of the magnetization reversal pathways and critical fields (coercivity and switching) discloses the origin of the magnetic anisotropy, which is magnetocrystalline in nature and shows fourfold symmetry at any temperature.
The delicate interplay of electronic charge, spin, and orbital degrees of freedom is in the heart of many novel phenomena across the transition metal oxide family. Here, by combining high-resolution angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy and first principles calculations (with and without spin-orbit coupling), the electronic structure of the rutile binary iridate,
IrO2, is investigated. The detailed study of electronic bands measured on a high-quality single crystalline sample and use of a wide range of photon energy provide a huge improvement over the previous studies. The excellent agreement between theory and experimental results shows that the single-particle DFT description of IrO2 band structure is adequate, without the need of invoking any treatment of correlation effects. Although many observed features point to a 3D nature of the electronic structure, clear surface effects are revealed. The discussion of the orbital character of the relevant bands crossing the Fermi level sheds light on spin-orbit-coupling-driven phenomena in this material, unveiling a spin-orbit-induced avoided crossing, a property likely to play a key role in its large spin Hall effect.
We study the low-energy surface electronic structure of the transition-metal dichalcogenide superconductor
PdTe2 by spin- and angle-resolved photoemission, scanning tunneling microscopy, and density-functional theory-based supercell calculations. Comparing PdTe2 with its sister compound PtSe2, we demonstrate how enhanced interlayer hopping in the Te-based material drives a band inversion within the antibonding p-orbital manifold well above the Fermi level. We show how this mediates spin-polarized topological surface states which form rich multivalley Fermi surfaces with complex spin textures. Scanning tunneling spectroscopy reveals type-II superconductivity at the surface, and moreover shows no evidence for an unconventional component of its superconducting order parameter, despite the presence of topological surface states.
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.
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.
Transition-metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) are renowned for their rich and varied bulk properties, while their single-layer variants have become one of the most prominent examples of two-dimensional materials beyond graphene. Their disparate ground states largely depend on transition metal d-electron-derived electronic states, on which the vast majority of attention has been concentrated to date. Here, we focus on the chalcogen-derived states. From density-functional theory calculations together with spin- and angle-resolved photoemission, we find that these generically host a co-existence of type-I and type-II three-dimensional bulk Dirac fermions as well as ladders of topological surface states and surface resonances. We demonstrate how these naturally arise within a single p-orbital manifold as a general consequence of a trigonal crystal field, and as such can be expected across a large number of compounds. Already, we demonstrate their existence in six separate TMDs, opening routes to tune, and ultimately exploit, their topological physics.
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.
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.
By combining bulk sensitive soft-x-ray angular-resolved photoemission spectroscopy and first-principles calculations we explored the bulk electron states of WTe2, a candidate type-II Weyl semimetal featuring a large nonsaturating magnetoresistance. Despite the layered geometry suggesting a two-dimensional electronic structure, we directly observe a three-dimensional electronic dispersion. We report a band dispersion in the reciprocal direction perpendicular to the layers, implying that electrons can also travel coherently when crossing from one layer to the other. The measured Fermi surface is characterized by two well-separated electron and hole pockets at either side of the Γ point, differently from previous more surface sensitive angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy experiments that additionally found a pronounced quasiparticle weight at the zone center. Moreover, we observe a significant sensitivity of the bulk electronic structure of WTe2 around the Fermi level to electronic correlations and renormalizations due to self-energy effects, previously neglected in first-principles descriptions.
In this work the experimental uncertainties concerning electron spin polarization (SP) under various realistic measurement conditions are theoretically derived. The accuracy of the evaluation of the SP of the photoelectron current is analysed as a function of the detector parameters and specifications, as well as of the characteristics of the photoexcitation sources. In particular, the different behaviour of single counter or twin counter detectors when the intensity fluctuations of the source are considered have been addressed, leading to a new definition of the SP detector performance. The widely used parameter called the figure of merit is shown to be inadequate for describing the efficiency of SP polarimeters, especially when they are operated with time-structured excitation sources such as free-electron lasers. Numerical simulations have been performed and yield strong implications in the choice of the detecting instruments in spin-polarization experiments, that are constrained in a limited measurement time. Our results are therefore applied to the characteristics of a wide set of state-of-the-art spectroscopy facilities all over the world, and an efficiency diagram for SP experiments is derived. These results also define new mathematical instruments for handling the correct statistics of SP measurements in the presence of source intensity fluctuations.
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.
The recent discovery of hidden spin polarization emerging in bulk electronic states of specific nonmagnetic crystals is a fascinating phenomenon, though hardly explored yet. Here, we study from a theoretical perspective nonmagnetic
BaNiS2, recently suggested to exhibit a giant Rashba-like spin-orbit splitting of the bulk bands, despite the absence of heavy elements. We employ density functional theory and Green's functions calculations to reveal the exact spin textures of both bulk and surface. We predict unambiguous signatures of spin-polarized electronic states at the surface, which reflect the bulk Rashba splitting and which could be experimentally measured with sufficient resolution: this would constitute a clear report of a bulk-Rashba-induced spin splitting at the surface of centrosymmetric crystals.
ULTRASPIN is an apparatus devoted to the measurement of the spin polarization (SP) of electrons ejected from solid surfaces in a UHV environment. It is designed to exploit ultrafast light sources (free electron laser or laser high harmonic generation) and to perform (photo)electron spin analysis by an arrangement of Mott scattering polarimeters that measure the full SP vector. The system consists of two interconnected UHV vessels: one for surface science sample cleaning treatments, e-beam deposition of ultrathin films, and low energy electron diffraction/AES characterization. The sample environment in the polarimeter allows for cryogenic cooling and in-operando application of electric and magnetic fields. The photoelectrons are collected by an electrostatic accelerator and transport lens that form a periaxial beam that is subsequently directed by a Y-shaped electrostatic deflector to either one of the two orthogonal Mott polarimeters. The apparatus has been designed to operate in the extreme conditions of ultraintense single-X-ray pulses as originated by free electron lasers (up to 1 kHz), but it allows also for the single electron counting mode suitable when using statistical sources such as synchrotron radiation, cw-laser, or e-gun beams (up to 150 kcps).
The behaviour of electrons and holes in a crystal lattice is a fundamental quantum phenomenon, accounting for a rich variety of material properties. Boosted by the remarkable electronic and physical properties of two-dimensional materials such as graphene and topological insulators, transition metal dichalcogenides have recently received renewed attention. In this context, the anomalous bulk properties of semimetallic WTe2 have attracted considerable interest. Here we report angle- and spin-resolved photoemission spectroscopy of WTe2 single crystals, through which we disentangle the role of W and Te atoms in the formation of the band structure and identify the interplay of charge, spin and orbital degrees of freedom. Supported by first-principles calculations and high-resolution surface topography, we reveal the existence of a layer-dependent behaviour. The balance of electron and hole states is found only when considering at least three Te–W–Te layers, showing that the behaviour of WTe2 is not strictly two dimensional.
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.