We present a study of a sub-nanometre interlayer of crystalline silicon nitride at the Ni/Si interface. We performed transmission electron microscopy measurements complemented by energy dispersive X-ray analysis to investigate to what extent the nitride layer act as a barrier against atom diffusion. The results show that discontinuous silicide areas can form just below the nitride layer, whose composition is compatible with that of the nickel disilicide. The Ni–Si reaction is tentatively attributed to the thermal strain suffered by the interface during the deposition of Ni at low temperature.
Kagome materials have emerged as a setting for emergent electronic phenomena that encompass different aspects of symmetry and topology. It is debated whether the XV6Sn6 kagome family (where X is a rare-earth element), a recently discovered family of bilayer kagome metals, hosts a topologically non-trivial ground state resulting from the opening of spin–orbit coupling gaps. These states would carry a finite spin Berry curvature, and topological surface states. Here we investigate the spin and electronic structure of the XV6Sn6 kagome family. We obtain evidence for a finite spin Berry curvature contribution at the centre of the Brillouin zone, where the nearly flat band detaches from the dispersing Dirac band because of spin–orbit coupling. In addition, the spin Berry curvature is further investigated in the charge density wave regime of ScV6Sn6 and it is found to be robust against the onset of the temperature-driven ordered phase. Utilizing the sensitivity of angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy to the spin and orbital angular momentum, our work unveils the spin Berry curvature of topological kagome metals and helps to define its spectroscopic fingerprint.
In the search of low cost and more efficient electronic devices, here the properties of SrVO3 transparent conductor oxide (TCO) thin film are investigated, both visible-range optically transparent and highly conductive, it stands as a promising candidate to substitute the standard indium-tin-oxide (ITO) in applications. Its surface stability under water (both liquid and vapor) and other gaseous atmospheres is especially addressed. Through the use of spectroscopy characterizations, X-ray photoemission and operando X-ray absorption measurements, the formation of a thin Sr-rich V5+ layer located at the surface of the polycrystalline SrVO3 film with aging is observed, and for the first time how it can be removed from the surface by solvating in water atmosphere. The surface recovery is associated to an etching process, here spectroscopically characterized in operando conditions, allowing to follow the stoichiometric modification under reaction. Once exposed in oxygen atmosphere, the Sr-rich V5+ layer forms again. The findings improve the understanding of aging effects in perovskite oxides, allowing for the development of functionalized films in which it is possible to control or to avoid an insulating surface layer. This constitutes an important step towards the large-scale use of V-based TCOs, with possible implementations in oxide-based electronics.
In the last decade, reducing the dimensionality of materials to few atomic layers thickness has allowed exploring new physical properties and functionalities otherwise absent out of the two dimensional limit. In this regime, interfaces and interlayers play a crucial role. Here, we investigate their influence on the electronic properties and structural quality of ultrathin Cr2O3 on Pt(111), in presence of a multidomain graphene intralayer. Specifically, by combining Low-Energy Electron Diffraction, X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy and X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy, we confirm the growth of high-quality ultrathin Cr2O3 on bare Pt, with sharp surface reconstructions, proper stoichiometry and good electronic quality. Once a multidomain graphene intralayer is included at the metal/oxide interface, the Cr2O3 maintained its correct stoichiometry and a comparable electronic quality, even at the very first monolayers, despite the partially lost of the morphological long-range order. These results show how ultrathin Cr2O3 films are slightly affected by the interfacial epitaxial quality from the electronic point of view, making them potential candidates for graphene-integrated heterostructures.
We report on the growth and characterization of epitaxial YBa2Cu3O7−δ (YBCO) complex oxide thin films and related heterostructures exclusively by Pulsed Laser Deposition (PLD) and using first harmonic Nd:Y3Al5O12 (Nd:YAG) pulsed laser source (λ = 1064 nm). High-quality epitaxial YBCO thin film heterostructures display superconducting properties with transition temperature ∼ 80 K. Compared with the excimer lasers, when using Nd:YAG lasers, the optimal growth conditions are achieved at a large target-to-substrate distance d. These results clearly demonstrate the potential use of the first harmonic Nd:YAG laser source as an alternative to the excimer lasers for the PLD thin film community. Its compactness as well as the absence of any safety issues related to poisonous gas represent a major breakthrough in the deposition of complex multi-element compounds in form of thin films.
Here, we present an integrated ultra-high-vacuum (UHV) apparatus for the growth of complex materials and heterostructures. The specific growth technique is the Pulsed Laser Deposition (PLD) by means of a dual-laser source based on an excimer KrF ultraviolet and solid-state Nd:YAG infra-red lasers. By taking advantage of the two laser sources—both lasers can be independently used within the deposition chambers—a large number of different materials—ranging from oxides to metals, to selenides, and others—can be successfully grown in the form of thin films and heterostructures. All of the samples can be in situ transferred between the deposition chambers and the analysis chambers by using vessels and holders’ manipulators. The apparatus also offers the possibility to transfer samples to remote instrumentation under UHV conditions by means of commercially available UHV-suitcases. The dual-PLD operates for in-house research as well as user facility in combination with the Advanced Photo-electric Effect beamline at the Elettra synchrotron radiation facility in Trieste and allows synchrotron-based photo-emission as well as x-ray absorption experiments on pristine films and heterostructures.
Hydrogen production from methanol decomposition to syngas (H2 + CO) is a promising alternative route for clean energy transition. One major challenge is related to the quest for stable, cost-effective, and selective catalysts operating below 400 °C. We illustrate an investigation of the surface reactivity of a Ni3Sn4 catalyst working at 250 °C, by combining density functional theory, operando X-ray absorption spectroscopy, and high-resolution transmission electron microscopy. We discovered that the catalytic reaction is driven by surface tin-oxide phases, which protects the underlying Ni atoms from irreversible chemical modifications, increasing the catalyst durability. Moreover, we found that Sn content plays a key role in enhancing the H2 selectivity, with respect to secondary products such as CO2. These findings open new perspectives for the engineering of scalable and low-cost catalysts for hydrogen production.
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.
The possibility of modifying the ferromagnetic response of a multiferroic heterostructure via fully optical means exploiting the photovoltaic/photostrictive properties of the ferroelectric component is an effective method for tuning the interfacial properties. In this study, the effects of 405 nm visible-light illumination on the ferroelectric and ferromagnetic responses of (001) Pb(Mg1/3Nb2/3)O3-0.4PbTiO3 (PMN-PT)/Ni heterostructures are presented. By combining electrical, structural, magnetic, and spectroscopic measurements, how light illumination above the ferroelectric bandgap energy induces a photovoltaic current and the photostrictive effect reduces the coercive field of the interfacial magnetostrictive Ni layer are shown. Firstly, a light-induced variation in the Ni orbital moment as a result of sum-rule analysis of x-ray magnetic circular dichroic measurements is reported. The reduction of orbital moment reveals a photogenerated strain field. The observed effect is strongly reduced when polarizing out-of-plane the PMN-PT substrate, showing a highly anisotropic photostrictive contribution from the in-plane ferroelectric domains. These results shed light on the delicate energy balance that leads to sizeable light-induced effects in multiferroic heterostructures, while confirming the need of spectroscopy for identifying the physical origin of interface behavior.
The generation and control of surface acoustic waves (SAWs) in a magnetic material are objects of an intense research effort focused on magnetoelastic properties, with fruitful ramifications in spin-wave-based quantum logic and magnonics. We implement a transient grating setup to optically generate SAWs also seeding coherent spin waves via magnetoelastic coupling in ferromagnetic media. In this work we report on SAW-driven ferromagnetic resonance (FMR) experiments performed on polycrystalline Ni thin films in combination with time-resolved Faraday polarimetry, which allows extraction of the value of the effective magnetization and of the Gilbert damping. The results are in full agreement with measurements on the very same samples from standard FMR. Higher-order effects due to parametric modulation of the magnetization dynamics, such as down-conversion, up-conversion, and frequency mixing, are observed, testifying the high sensitivity of this technique.
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.
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.
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.
The formation and the evolution of electronic metallic states localized at the surface, commonly termed 2D electron gas (2DEG), represents a peculiar phenomenon occurring at the surface and interface of many transition metal oxides (TMO). Among TMO, titanium dioxide (TiO2), particularly in its anatase polymorph, stands as a prototypical system for the development of novel applications related to renewable energy, devices and sensors, where understanding the carrier dynamics is of utmost importance. In this study, angle-resolved photo-electron spectroscopy (ARPES) and X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) are used, supported by density functional theory (DFT), to follow the formation and the evolution of the 2DEG in TiO2 thin films. Unlike other TMO systems, it is revealed that, once the anatase fingerprint is present, the 2DEG in TiO2 is robust and stable down to a single-unit-cell, and that the electron filling of the 2DEG increases with thickness and eventually saturates. These results prove that no critical thickness triggers the occurrence of the 2DEG in anatase TiO2 and give insight in formation mechanism of electronic states at the surface of TMO.
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.
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.
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.
The emergence of Dirac semimetals has stimulated growing attention, owing to the considerable technological potential arising from their peculiar exotic quantum transport related to their nontrivial topological states. Especially, materials showing type-II Dirac fermions afford novel device functionalities enabled by anisotropic optical and magnetotransport properties. Nevertheless, real technological implementation has remained elusive so far. Definitely, in most Dirac semimetals, the Dirac point lies deep below the Fermi level, limiting technological exploitation. Here, it is shown that kitkaite (NiTeSe) represents an ideal platform for type-II Dirac fermiology based on spin-resolved angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy and density functional theory. Precisely, the existence of type-II bulk Dirac fermions is discovered in NiTeSe around the Fermi level and the presence of topological surface states with strong (≈50%) spin polarization. By means of surface-science experiments in near-ambient pressure conditions, chemical inertness towards ambient gases (oxygen and water) is also demonstrated. Correspondingly, NiTeSe-based devices without encapsulation afford long-term efficiency, as demonstrated by the direct implementation of a NiTeSe-based microwave receiver with a room-temperature photocurrent of 2.8 µA at 28 GHz and more than two orders of magnitude linear dynamic range. The findings are essential to bringing to fruition type-II Dirac fermions in photonics, spintronics, and optoelectronics.
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 piezoelectric response of ZnO thin films in heterostructure-based devices is strictly related to their structure and morphology. We optimize the fabrication of piezoelectric ZnO to reduce its surface roughness, improving the crystalline quality, taking into consideration the role of the metal electrode underneath. The role of thermal treatments, as well as sputtering gas composition, is investigated by means of atomic force microscopy and x-ray diffraction. The results show an optimal reduction in surface roughness and at the same time a good crystalline quality when 75% O2 is introduced in the sputtering gas and deposition is performed between room temperature and 573 K. Subsequent annealing at 773 K further improves the film quality. The introduction of Ti or Pt as bottom electrode maintains a good surface and crystalline quality. By means of piezoelectric force microscope, we prove a piezoelectric response of the film in accordance with the literature, in spite of the low ZnO thickness and the reduced grain size, with a unipolar orientation and homogenous displacement when deposited on Ti electrode.
Due to their peculiar quasiparticle excitations, topological metals have high potential for applications in the fields of spintronics, catalysis, and superconductivity. Here, by combining spin- and angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy, scanning tunneling microscopy/spectroscopy, and density functional theory, we discover surface-termination-dependent topological electronic states in the recently discovered mitrofanovite Pt3Te4. Mitrofanovite crystal is formed by alternating, van der Waals bound layers of Pt2Te2 and PtTe2. Our results demonstrate that mitrofanovite is a topological metal with termination-dependent (i) electronic band structure and (ii) spin texture. Despite their distinct electronic character, both surface terminations are characterized by electronic states exhibiting strong spin polarization with a node at the Γ point and sign reversal across the Γ point, indicating their topological nature and the possibility of realizing two distinct electronic configurations (both of them with topological features) on the surface of the same material.
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.
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.
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.
In this work, we present an investigation on the effects of thermal annealing on the magnetic response of Lithium Niobate/Fe samples. Fe thin films have been deposited on Lithium Niobate Z-cut ferroelectric substrates by vapor phase epitaxy. A series of annealing treatments were performed on the samples, monitoring the evolution of their magnetic properties, both at the surface and on the volume. The combination of structural, magnetic, chemical and morphological characterizations shows that the modification of the chemical properties, i.e. the phase decomposition, of the substrate upon annealing affects drastically the magnetic behavior of the interfacial Fe layer. By tuning the annealing temperature, the magnetic coercive field value can be increased by an order of magnitude compared to the as-grown value, keeping the same in-plane isotropic behavior. Since no evident differences were recorded in the Fe layer from the chemical point of view, we attribute the origin of this effect to an intermixing process between a fragment of the substrate and the Fe thin film upon critical temperature annealing, process that is also is responsible for the observed changes in roughness and morphology of the magnetic thin film.
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.
A ferromagnetic (FM) thin film deposited on a substrate of Pb(Mg1/3Nb2/3)O3−PbTiO3 (PMN-PT) is an appealing heterostructure for the electrical control of magnetism, which would enable nonvolatile memories with ultralow-power consumption. Reversible and electrically controlled morphological changes at the surface of PMN-PT suggest that the magnetoelectric effects are more complex than the commonly used “strain-mediated” description. Here we show that changes in substrate morphology intervene in magnetoelectric coupling as a key parameter interplaying with strain. Magnetic-sensitive microscopy techniques are used to study magnetoelectric coupling in Fe/PMN-PT at different length scales, and compare different substrate cuts. The observed rotation of the magnetic anisotropy is connected to the changes in morphology, and mapped in the crack pattern at the mesoscopic scale. Ferroelectric polarization switching induces a magnetic field-free rotation of the magnetic domains at micrometer scale, with a wide distribution of rotation angles. Our results show that the relationship between the rotation of the magnetic easy axis and the rotation of the in-plane component of the electric polarization is not straightforward, as well as the relationship between ferroelectric domains and crack pattern. The understanding and control of this phenomenon is crucial to develop functional devices based on FM/PMN-PT heterostructures.
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.
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.
In the framework of piezoelectric/ferromagnetic patterned heterostructures, the purpose of this work is to electrically control the magnetic properties by tuning the morphology, especially by modifying the magnetic shape anisotropy through patterned strain. We have thus designed and studied a heterostructure with bottom nano-striped and top full film electrodes. ZnO piezoelectric and CoFeB magnetic materials were chosen to respond at critical criteria of its geometry. In addition, numerical simulations and magnetostatic calculations were performed to understand the reproduction of the pattern across the multiferroic heterostructure. Calculations have shown that the geometry of the heterostructure presents strict constraints, as for instance the distance between stripes versus the piezoelectric thickness. This study is a preliminary step towards reversible patterning of magnetic properties.
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.
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.
Combining first‐principles calculations with synchrotron‐based X‐ray photoelectron spectroscopy, the surface chemical reactivity of VSe2 single crystals toward oxygen, water, and air is assessed. It is found that the pristine, undefected surface is inert toward oxygen and water adsorption. The presence of Se defects drastically changes the surface reactivity. Specifically, water adsorption at room temperature is dissociative and mainly localized at Se vacancies. In contrast, surface oxidation is achieved only after long‐term air exposure (1 month). These results are crucial to assess the surface stability in ambient environment in the prospect of VSe2‐based applications.
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.
We report on the reproducible surface topological electron states in Bi2Se3 topological insulator thin films when epitaxially grown by Pulsed Laser Deposition (PLD) on (0 0 1)-oriented SrTiO3 (STO) perovskite substrates. Bi2Se3 has been reproducibly grown with single (0 0 1)-orientation and low surface roughness as controlled by ex-situ X-ray diffraction and in situ scanning tunnel microscopy and low-energy electron diffraction. Finally, in situ synchrotron radiation angle-resolved photo-emission spectroscopy measurements show a single Dirac cone and Dirac point at eV located in the center of the Brillouin zone likewise found from exfoliated single-crystals. These results demonstrate that the topological surface electron properties of PLD-grown Bi2Se3 thin films grown on (0 0 1)-oriented STO substrates open new perspectives for applications of multi-layered materials based on oxide perovskites.
Converse magnetoelectric coupling in artificial multiferroics is generally modeled through three possible mechanisms: charge transfer, strain mediated effects or ion migration. Here the role played by electrically controlled morphological modifications on the ferromagnetic response of a multiferroic heterostructure, specifically FexMn1−x ferromagnetic films on piezoferroelectric PMN‐PT  substrates, is discussed. The substrates present, in correspondence to electrical switching, fully reversible morphological changes at the surface, to which correspond reproducible modifications of the ferromagnetic response of the FexMn1−x films. Topographic analysis by atomic force microscopy shows the formation of surface cracks (up to 100 nm in height) upon application of a sufficiently high positive electric field (up to 6 kV cm−1). The cracks disappear after application of negative electric field of the same magnitude. Correspondingly, in operando X‐ray magnetic circular dichroic spectroscopy at Fe edge in FexMn1−x layers and micro‐MOKE measurements show local variations in the intensity of the dichroic signal and in the magnetic anisotropy as a function of the electrically driven morphological state. This morphologic parameter, rarely explored in literature, directly affects the ferromagnetic response of the system. Its proof of electrically reversible modification of the magnetic response adds a new possibility in the design of electrically controlled magnetic devices.
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.
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.
I explored the properties of systems that were fabricated aiming to exploit enhanced multiferroic behavior and potentially useful functionalities at room temperature. The systems of choice for this thesis were two prototypical multiferroic heterostructures composed by a ferromagnetic thin film deposited on a ferroelectric substrate: LSMO/BTO(001) and Fe,FeMn/PMN-PT(001). I focused on the magnetic response of the thin films to applied electric fields oriented perpendicular to the interface, and influencing the substrate. In both the chosen heterostructures the magnetic layers and ferroelectric substrates are all materials with high ordering temperature.
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 present a new experimental setup for performing X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy (XAS) in the soft X-ray range at ambient pressure. The ambient pressure XAS setup is fully compatible with the ultra high vacuum environment of a synchrotron radiation spectroscopy beamline end station by means of ultrathin Si3N4 membranes acting as windows for the X-ray beam and seal of the atmospheric sample environment. The XAS detection is performed in total electron yield (TEY) mode by probing the drain current from the sample with a picoammeter. The high signal/noise ratio achievable in the TEY mode, combined with a continuous scanning of the X-ray energies, makes it possible recording XAS spectra in a few seconds. The first results show the performance of this setup to record fast XAS spectra from sample surfaces exposed at atmospheric pressure, even in the case of highly insulating samples. The use of a permanent magnet inside the reaction cell enables the measurement of X-ray magnetic circular dichroism at ambient pressure.
Controlling magnetism by using electric fields is a goal of research towards novel spintronic devices and future nanoelectronics. For this reason, multiferroic heterostructures attract much interest. Here we provide experimental evidence, and supporting density functional theory analysis, of a transition in La0.65Sr0.35MnO3 thin film to a stable ferromagnetic phase, that is induced by the structural and strain properties of the ferroelectric BaTiO3 (BTO) substrate, which can be modified by applying external electric fields. X-ray magnetic circular dichroism measurements on Mn L edges with a synchrotron radiation show, in fact, two magnetic transitions as a function of temperature that correspond to structural changes of the BTO substrate. We also show that ferromagnetism, absent in the pristine condition at room temperature, can be established by electrically switching the BTO ferroelectric domains in the out-of-plane direction. The present results confirm that electrically induced strain can be exploited to control magnetism in multiferroic oxide heterostructures.
The spin-spin correlations in hollow (H) and full (F) maghemite nanoparticles (NPs) have been studied by X-ray magnetic circular dichroism (XMCD). An unexpected XMCD signal was detected and analyzed under the application of a small field (μ0H = 160 Oe) and at remanence for both F and H NPs. Clear differences in the magnitude and in the lineshape of the XMCD spectra between F and H NPs emerged. By comparing XMCD measurements performed with a variable degree of surface sensitivity, we were able to address the specific role played by the surface spins in the magnetism of the NPs.
Here we report a giant, completely reversible magneto-electric coupling of 100 nm polycrystalline Co layer in contact with ZnO nanorods. When the sample is under an applied bias of ± 2 V, the Co magnetic coercivity is reduced by a factor 5 from the un-poled case, with additionally a reduction of total magnetic moment in Co. Taking into account the chemical properties of ZnO nanorods measured by x-rays absorption near edge spectroscopy under bias, we conclude that these macroscopic effects on the magnetic response of the Co layer are due to the microstructure and the strong strain-driven magneto-electric coupling induced by the ZnO nanorods, whose nanostructuration maximizes the piezoelectric response under bias.
In this work, we studied the influence of the buffer layer composition on the IrMn thickness threshold for the onset of exchange bias in IrMn/Co bilayers. By means of magnetometry, x-ray absorption and x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, we investigated the magnetic and chemical properties of the stacks. We demonstrated a higher diffusion of Mn through the Co layer in the case of a Cu buffer layer. This is consistent with the observation of larger IrMn thickness threshold for the onset of exchange bias.
In the rapidly growing field of spintronics, simultaneous control of electronic and magnetic properties is essential, and the perspective of building novel phases is directly linked to the control of tuning parameters, for example, thickness and doping. Looking at the relevant effects in interface-driven spintronics, the reduced symmetry at a surface and interface corresponds to a severe modification of the overlap of electron orbitals, that is, to a change of electron hybridization. Here we report a chemically and magnetically sensitive depth-dependent analysis of two paradigmatic systems, namely La1−xSrxMnO3 and (Ga,Mn)As. Supported by cluster calculations, we find a crossover between surface and bulk in the electron hybridization/correlation and we identify a spectroscopic fingerprint of bulk metallic character and ferromagnetism versus depth. The critical thickness and the gradient of hybridization are measured, setting an intrinsic limit of 3 and 10 unit cells from the surface, respectively, for (Ga,Mn)As and La1−xSrxMnO3, for fully restoring bulk properties.
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.
Complete photoemission experiments, enabling measurement of the full quantum set of the photoelectron final state, are in high demand for studying materials and nanostructures whose properties are determined by strong electron and spin correlations. Here the implementation of the new spin polarimeter VESPA (Very Efficient Spin Polarization Analysis) at the APE-NFFA beamline at Elettra is reported, which is based on the exchange coupling between the photoelectron spin and a ferromagnetic surface in a reflectometry setup. The system was designed to be integrated with a dedicated Scienta-Omicron DA30 electron energy analyzer allowing for two simultaneous reflectometry measurements, along perpendicular axes, that, after magnetization switching of the two targets, allow the three-dimensional vectorial reconstruction of the spin polarization to be performed while operating the DA30 in high-resolution mode. VESPA represents the very first installation for spin-resolved ARPES (SPARPES) at the Elettra synchrotron in Trieste, and is being heavily exploited by SPARPES users since autumn 2015.
We report the study of anatase TiO2(001)-oriented thin films grown by pulsed laser deposition on LaAlO3(001). A combination of in situ and ex situ methods has been used to address both the origin of the Ti3+-localized states and their relationship with the structural and electronic properties on the surface and the subsurface. Localized in-gap states are analyzed using resonant X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and are related to the Ti3+ electronic configuration, homogeneously distributed over the entire film thickness. We find that an increase in the oxygen pressure corresponds to an increase in Ti3+ only in a well-defined range of deposition pressure; outside this range, Ti3+ and the strength of the in-gap states are reduced.
We report on epitaxial growth of Bi2Se3topological insulator thin films by Pulsed Laser Deposition(PLD). X-ray diffraction investigation confirms that Bi2Se3with a single (001)-orientation can beobtained on several substrates in a narrow (i.e., 20°C) range of deposition temperatures and at highdeposition pressure (i.e., 0.1 mbar). However, only films grown on (001)-Al2O3substrates show analmost-unique in-plane orientation.In-situspin-resolved angular resolved photoemission spectros-copy experiments, performed at the NFFA-APE facility of IOM-CNR and Elettra (Trieste), show asingle Dirac cone with the Dirac point atEB0:38 eV located in the center of the Brillouin zoneand the spin polarization of the topological surface states. These results demonstrate that the topolog-ical surface state can be obtained in PLD-grown Bi2Se3thin films.
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.
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.
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.
The manipulation of ferromagnetic layer magnetization via electrical pulse is driving an intense research due to the important applications that this result will have on memory devices and sensors. In this study we realized a magnetotunnel junction in which one layer is made of Galfenol (Fe1-xGax) which possesses one of the highest magnetostrictive coefficient known. The multilayer stack has been grown by molecular beam epitaxy and e-beam evaporation. Optical lithography and physical etching have been combined to obtain 20x20 micron sized pillars. The obtained structures show tunneling conductivity across the junction and a tunnel magnetoresistance (TMR) effect of up to 11.5% in amplitude.
We investigate the structural, chemical, and magnetic properties on BiFe0.5Cr0.5O3 (BFCO) thin films grown on (001) (110) and (111) oriented SrTiO3 (STO) substrates by x-ray magnetic circular dichroism and x-ray diffraction. We show how highly pure BFCO films, differently from the theoretically expected ferrimagnetic behavior, present a very weak dichroic signal at Cr and Fe edges, with both moments aligned with the external field. Chemically sensitive hysteresis loops show no hysteretic behavior and no saturation up to 6.8 T. The linear responses are induced by the tilting of the Cr and Fe moments along the applied magnetic field.
Research on spintronics and on multiferroics leads now to the possibility of combining the properties of these materials in order to develop new functional devices. Here we report the integration of a layer of magnetostrictive material into a magnetic tunnel junction. A FeGa/MgO/Fe heterostructure has been grown on a GaAs(001) substrate by molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) and studied by X-ray magnetic circular dichroism (XMCD). The comparison between magneto optical Kerr effect (MOKE) measurements and hysteresis performed in total electron yield allowed distinguishing the ferromagnetic hysteresis loop of the FeGa top layer from that of the Fe buried layer, evidencing a different switching field of the two layers. This observation indicates an absence of magnetic coupling between the two ferromagnetic layers despite the thickness of the MgO barrier of only 2.5 nm. The in-plane magnetic anisotropy has also been investigated. Overall results show the good quality of the heterostructure and the general feasibility of such a device using magnetostrictive materials in magnetic tunnel junction.
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.