Chirality and magnetism of molecules are two properties that in the last years raised notable interest for the development of novel molecular devices. Chiral helicenes combine these functionalities, and their nanostructuration is the first step toward developing new multifunctional devices. Here, we present a novel assembling strategy to deposit a sub‐monolayer of enantiopure thiahelicene radical cations on a pre‐functionalized Au(111) substrate permitting the persistence of both the paramagnetic character and chirality of these molecules at the nanoscale. In‐house characterizations demonstrated the retention of the chemical and paramagnetic properties after the deposition process. Furthermore, synchrotron‐based X‐ray natural circular dichroism confirmed that the handedness of the thiahelicene is preserved on the surface.
Solid oxide photoelectrochemical cells (SOPECs) with inorganic ion-conducting electrolytes provide an alternative solution for light harvesting and conversion. Exploring potential photoelectrodes for SOPECs and understanding their operation mechanisms are crucial for continuously developing this technology. Here, ceria-based thin films were newly explored as photoelectrodes for SOPEC applications. It was found that the photoresponse of ceria-based thin films can be tuned both by Sm-doping-induced defects and by the heating temperature of SOPECs. The whole process was found to depend on the surface electrochemical redox reactions synergistically with the bulk photoelectric effect. Samarium doping level can selectively switch the open-circuit voltages polarity of SOPECs under illumination, thus shifting the potential of photoelectrodes and changing their photoresponse. The role of defect chemistry engineering in determining such a photoelectrochemical process was discussed. Transient absorption and X-ray photoemission spectroscopies, together with the state-of-the-art in operando X-ray absorption spectroscopy, allowed us to provide a compelling explanation of the experimentally observed switching behavior on the basis of the surface reactions and successive charge balance in the bulk.
The study of ionic materials on nanometer scale is of great relevance for efficient miniaturized devices for energy applications. The epitaxial growth of thin films can be a valid route to tune the properties of the materials and thus obtain new degrees of freedom in materials design. High crystal quality SmxCe1-xO2-δ films are here reported at high doping level up to x=0.4, thanks to the good lat-tice matching with the (110) oriented NdGaO3 substrate. X-ray diffraction and transmission electron microscopy demonstrate the ordered structural quality and absence of Sm segregation at macroscopic and atomic level, respectively. Therefore, in epitaxial thin films the homogeneous doping can be obtained even with high dopant content not always approachable in bulk form, getting even an improvement of the structural properties. In situ spectroscopic measurements by x-ray photoemission and x-ray absorption show the O 2p band shift towards the Fermi level which can favor the oxygen exchange and vacancy formation on the surface when the Sm doping is increased to x=0.4. X-ray absorption spectroscopy also confirms the absence of ordered oxygen vacancy clusters and further reveals that the 5d eg and t2g states are well separated by the crystal field in the undistorted local structure even in the case of high doping level x=0.4.
We study the 2×2 charge density wave (CDW) in epitaxially-grown monolayer TiSe2. Our temperature-dependent angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy measurements indicate a strong-coupling instability, but reveal how not all states couple equally to the symmetry-breaking distortion, with an electron pocket persisting to low temperature as a non-bonding state. We further show how the CDW order can be suppressed by a modest doping of around 0.06(2) electrons per Ti. Our results provide an opportunity for quantitative comparison with a realistic tight-binding model, which emphasises a crucial role of structural aspects of the phase transition in understanding the hybridisation in the ground state. Together, our work provides a comprehensive understanding of the phenomenology of the CDW in TiSe2 in the 2D limit.
Two-dimensional (2D) alloys represent a versatile platform that extends the properties of atomically thin transition-metal dichalcogenides. Here, using molecular beam epitaxy, we investigate the growth of 2D vanadium-molybdenum diselenide alloys, VxMo1–xSe2, on highly oriented pyrolytic graphite and unveil their structural, chemical, and electronic integrities via measurements by scanning tunneling microscopy/spectroscopy, synchrotron X-ray photoemission, and X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS). Essentially, we found a critical value of x = ∼0.44, below which phase separation occurs and above which a homogeneous metallic phase is favored. Another observation is an effective increase in the density of mirror twin boundaries of constituting MoSe2 in the low V concentration regime (x ≤ 0.05). Density functional theory calculations support our experimental results on the thermal stability of 2D VxMo1–xSe2 alloys and suggest an H phase of the homogeneous alloys with alternating parallel V and Mo strips randomly in-plane stacked. Element-specific XAS of the 2D alloys, which clearly indicates quenched atomic multiplets similar to the case of 2H-VSe2, provides strong evidence for the H phase of the 2D alloys. This work provides a comprehensive understanding of the thermal stability, chemical state, and electronic structure of 2D VxMo1–xSe2 alloys, useful for the future design of 2D electronic devices.
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.
The local atomic structure and the magnetic response of Co films intercalated between Graphene and Ir(111) were investigated combining polarized X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy at the Co K edge with Magneto-Optic Kerr Effect. The structural and magnetic evolution upon a 500 °C annealing was evaluated as a function of the film thickness. After the thermal treatment, our thick film (10 monolayers) presented a lower perpendicular magnetic anisotropy (PMA) as well as a reduced average structural disorder. On the other hand, in our thin film (5 monolayers), the annealing enhanced the perpendicular magnetic response and induced a local anisotropy by stretching the Co-Co bonds in the film plane and compressing those outside the plane. Our finding emphasizes the close relationship between the local structure of Co within the film and its magnetic properties.
The tetragonal phase of chromium (III) oxide, although unstable in the bulk, can be synthesized in epitaxial heterostructures. Theoretical investigation by density-functional theory predicts an antiferromagnetic ground state for this compound. We demonstrate experimentally antiferromagnetism up to 40 K in ultrathin films of t−Cr2O3 by electrical measurements exploiting interface effect within a neighboring ultrathin Pt layer. We show that magnetotransport in Pt is affected by both spin-Hall magnetoresistance and magnetic proximity effect while we exclude any role of magnetism for the low-temperature resistance anomaly observed in Pt.
Palladium ditelluride (PdTe2) is a novel transition‐metal dichalcogenide exhibiting type‐II Dirac fermions and topological superconductivity. To assess its potential in technology, its chemical and thermal stability is investigated by means of surface‐science techniques, complemented by density functional theory, with successive implementation in electronics, specifically in a millimeter‐wave receiver. While water adsorption is energetically unfavorable at room temperature, due to a differential Gibbs free energy of ≈+12 kJ mol−1, the presence of Te vacancies makes PdTe2 surfaces unstable toward surface oxidation with the emergence of a TeO2 skin, whose thickness remains sub‐nanometric even after one year in air. Correspondingly, the measured photocurrent of PdTe2‐based optoelectronic devices shows negligible changes (below 4%) in a timescale of one month, thus excluding the need of encapsulation in the nanofabrication process. Remarkably, the responsivity of a PdTe2‐based millimeter‐wave receiver is 13 and 21 times higher than similar devices based on black phosphorus and graphene in the same operational conditions, respectively. It is also discovered that pristine PdTe2 is thermally stable in a temperature range extending even above 500 K, thus paving the way toward PdTe2‐based high‐temperature electronics. Finally, it is shown that the TeO2 skin, formed upon air exposure, can be removed by thermal reduction via heating in vacuum.
Magnetism in monolayer (ML) VSe2 has attracted broad interest in spintronics, while existing reports have not reached consensus. Using element-specific X-ray magnetic circular dichroism, a magnetic transition in ML VSe2 has been demonstrated at the contamination-free interface between Co and VSe2. Through interfacial hybridization with a Co atomic overlayer, a magnetic moment of about 0.4 μB per V atom in ML VSe2 is revealed, approaching values predicted by previous theoretical calculations. Promotion of the ferromagnetism in ML VSe2 is accompanied by its antiferromagnetic coupling to Co and a reduction in the spin moment of Co. In comparison to the absence of this interface-induced ferromagnetism at the Fe/ML MoSe2 interface, these findings at the Co/ML VSe2 interface provide clear proof that the ML VSe2, initially with magnetic disorder, is on the verge of magnetic transition.
Monolayer VSe2, featuring both charge density wave and magnetism phenomena, represents a unique van der Waals magnet in the family of metallic 2D transition‐metal dichalcogenides (2D‐TMDs). Herein, by means of in situ microscopy and spectroscopic techniques, including scanning tunneling microscopy/spectroscopy, synchrotron X‐ray and angle‐resolved photoemission, and X‐ray absorption, direct spectroscopic signatures are established, that identify the metallic 1T‐phase and vanadium 3d1 electronic configuration in monolayer VSe2 grown on graphite by molecular‐beam epitaxy. Element‐specific X‐ray magnetic circular dichroism, complemented with magnetic susceptibility measurements, further reveals monolayer VSe2 as a frustrated magnet, with its spins exhibiting subtle correlations, albeit in the absence of a long‐range magnetic order down to 2 K and up to a 7 T magnetic field. This observation is attributed to the relative stability of the ferromagnetic and antiferromagnetic ground states, arising from its atomic‐scale structural features, such as rotational disorders and edges. The results of this study extend the current understanding of metallic 2D‐TMDs in the search for exotic low‐dimensional quantum phenomena, and stimulate further theoretical and experimental studies on van der Waals monolayer magnets.
Cu2ZnSnS4 (CZTS) nanocrystals (NCs) were produced via hot-injection from metal chloride precursors. A systematic investigation of the influence of synthesis conditions on composition, size and microstructure of CZTS NCs is presented. The results show that the solvent amount (oleylamine) is a key parameter in the synthesis of this quaternary chalcogenide: a low solvent content leads to CZTS NCs with a prominent kesterite phase with the desired composition for use as absorber material in thin film photovoltaic cells. It is also observed that lowering the injection temperature (250 °C) favours formation of CZTS NCs in the wurtzite phase. The effect of different high temperature thermal treatments on the grain growth is also shown: large crystals are obtained with annealing in inert atmosphere, whereas nanocrystalline films are obtained introducing sulphur vapour during the heat treatment. A correlation between the grain dimension and the carbonaceous residues in the final films is investigated. It is shown that the grain growth is hindered by organic residues, amount and nature of which depend on the heat treatment atmosphere. In fact, oleylamine is removed by a complex pyrolytic process, which is affected by the presence of sulphur vapour. The latter favours the stability of oleylamine residuals against its non-oxidative release.
Materials exhibiting nodal‐line fermions promise superb impact on technology for the prospect of dissipationless spintronic devices. Among nodal‐line semimetals, the ZrSiX (X = S, Se, Te) class is the most suitable candidate for such applications. However, the surface chemical reactivity of ZrSiS and ZrSiSe has not been explored yet. Here, by combining different surface‐science tools and density functional theory, it is demonstrated that the formation of ZrSiS and ZrSiSe surfaces by cleavage is accompanied by the washing up of the exotic topological bands, giving rise to the nodal line. Moreover, while the ZrSiS has a termination layer with both Zr and S atoms, in the ZrSiSe surface, reconstruction occurs with the appearance of Si surface atoms, which is particularly prone to oxidation. It is demonstrated that the chemical activity of ZrSiX compounds is mostly determined by the interaction of the Si layer with the ZrX sublayer. A suitable encapsulation for ZrSiX should not only preserve their surfaces from interaction with oxidative species, but also provide a saturation of dangling bonds with minimal distortion of the surface.
In this paper, we present the first publicly available human-annotated dataset of images obtained by the Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM). A total of roughly 22,000 SEM images at the nanoscale are classified into 10 categories to form 4 labeled training sets, suited for image recognition tasks. The selected categories span the range of 0D objects such as particles, 1D nanowires and fibres, 2D films and coated surfaces as well as patterned surfaces, and 3D structures such as microelectromechanical system (MEMS) devices and pillars. Additional categories such as tips and biological are also included to expand the spectrum of possible images. A preliminary degree of hierarchy is introduced, by creating a subtree structure for the categories and populating them with the available images, wherever possible.
In order to enable the use of the prototypical 2D‐layered MoS2 for spintronics, its integration with ferromagnetic layers is mandatory. By employing interface‐sensitive 57Fe conversion electron Mössbauer spectroscopy (CEMS), hard X‐ray photoelectron spectroscopy (HAXPES), and transmission electron microscopy (TEM), the chemical, structural, and magnetic properties of the Fe/2D‐MoS2 interface are investigated. CEMS shows that out of the first 1 nm of Fe in direct contact with 2D‐MoS2, about half of the Fe atoms keeps the un‐perturbed Fe local environment, partly in regions where the original 2D‐layered structure of MoS2 is preserved as shown by TEM. The remaining reacting Fe atoms exclusively bond with Mo, with the majority of them being characterized by a ferromagnetic environment and the rest coordinating in a paramagnetic Fe‐Mo configuration. The preferential Fe bonding with Mo is corroborated by HAXPES analysis. The results provide detailed insight into the link between the bonding configuration and the interfacial magnetism at the Fe/2D‐MoS2 heterojunction.
The design and characterization of a HHG source conceived for Time and Angle Resolved PhotoElectron Spectroscopy (TR-ARPES) experiments are presented. The harmonics are selected through a grating monochromator with an innovative design able to provide XUV radiation for two distinct TR-ARPES setups.
Interfaces play a crucial role in the study of novel phenomena emerging at heterostructures comprising metals and functional oxides. For this reason, attention should be paid to the interface chemistry, which can favor the interdiffusion of atomic species and, under certain conditions, lead to the formation of radically different compounds with respect to the original constituents. In this work, we consider Cr/
BaTiO3 heterostructures grown on SrTiO3 (100) substrates. Chromium thin films (1–2 nm thickness) are deposited by molecular beam epitaxy on the
BaTiO3 layer, and subsequently annealed in vacuum at temperatures ranging from 473 to 773 K. A disordered metallic layer is detected for annealing temperatures up to 573 K, whereas, at higher temperatures, we observe a progressive oxidation of chromium, which we relate to the thermally activated migration of oxygen from the substrate. The chromium oxidation state is +3 and the film shows a defective rocksalt structure, which grows lattice matched on the underlying BaTiO3 layer. One out of every three atoms of chromium is missing, producing an uncommon tetragonal phase with Cr2O3 stoichiometry. Despite the structural difference with respect to the ordinary corundum α-Cr2O3 phase, we demonstrate both experimentally and theoretically that the electronic properties of the two phases are, to a large extent, equivalent.
PtTe2 is a novel transition-metal dichalcogenide hosting type-II Dirac fermions that displays application capabilities in optoelectronics and hydrogen evolution reaction. Here it is shown, by combining surface science experiments and density functional theory, that the pristine surface of PtTe2 is chemically inert toward the most common ambient gases (oxygen and water) and even in air. It is demonstrated that the creation of Te vacancies leads to the appearance of tellurium-oxide phases upon exposing defected PtTe2 surfaces to oxygen or ambient atmosphere, which is detrimental for the ambient stability of uncapped PtTe2-based devices. On the contrary, in PtTe2 surfaces modified by the joint presence of Te vacancies and substitutional carbon atoms, the stable adsorption of hydroxyl groups is observed, an essential step for water splitting and the water–gas shift reaction. These results thus pave the way toward the exploitation of this class of Dirac materials in catalysis.
The electric and nonvolatile control of the spin texture in semiconductors would represent a fundamental step toward novel electronic devices combining memory and computing functionalities. Recently, GeTe has been theoretically proposed as the father compound of a new class of materials, namely ferroelectric Rashba semiconductors. They display bulk bands with giant Rashba-like splitting due to the inversion symmetry breaking arising from the ferroelectric polarization, thus allowing for the ferroelectric control of the spin. Here, we provide the experimental demonstration of the correlation between ferroelectricity and spin texture. A surface-engineering strategy is used to set two opposite predefined uniform ferroelectric polarizations, inward and outward, as monitored by piezoresponse force microscopy. Spin and angular resolved photoemission experiments show that these GeTe(111) surfaces display opposite sense of circulation of spin in bulk Rashba bands. Furthermore, we demonstrate the crafting of nonvolatile ferroelectric patterns in GeTe films at the nanoscale by using the conductive tip of an atomic force microscope. Based on the intimate link between ferroelectric polarization and spin in GeTe, ferroelectric patterning paves the way to the investigation of devices with engineered spin configurations.
Interfaces between organic semiconductors and ferromagnetic metals offer intriguing opportunities in the rapidly developing field of organic spintronics. Understanding and controlling the spin-polarized electronic states at the interface is the key toward a reliable exploitation of this kind of systems. Here we propose an approach consisting in the insertion of a two-dimensional magnetic oxide layer at the interface with the aim of both increasing the reproducibility of the interface preparation and offering a way for a further fine control over the electronic and magnetic properties. We have inserted a two-dimensional Cr4O5 layer at the C60/Fe(001) interface and have characterized the corresponding morphological, electronic, and magnetic properties. Scanning tunneling microscopy and electron diffraction show that the film grows well-ordered both in the monolayer and multilayer regimes. Electron spectroscopies confirm that hybridization of the electronic states occurs at the interface. Finally, magnetic dichroism in X-ray absorption shows an unprecedented spin-polarization of the hybridized fullerene states. The latter result is discussed also in light of an ab initio theoretical analysis.
The conduction and optoelectronic properties of transparent conductive oxides can be largely modified by intentional inclusion of dopants over a very large range of concentrations. However, the simultaneous presence of structural defects results in an unpredictable complexity that prevents a clear identification of chemical and structural properties of the final samples. By exploiting the unique chemical sensitivity of Hard X-ray Photoelectron Spectra and Near Edge X-ray Absorption Fine Structure in combination with Density Functional Theory, we determine the contribution to the spectroscopic response of defects in Al-doped ZnO films. Satellite peaks in O1s and modifications at the O K-edge allow the determination of the presence of H embedded in ZnO and the very low concentration of Zn vacancies and O interstitials in undoped ZnO. Contributions coming from substitutional and (above the solubility limit) interstitial Al atoms have been clearly identified and have been related to changes in the oxide stoichiometry and increased oxygen coordination, together with small lattice distortions. In this way defects and doping in oxide films can be controlled, in order to tune their properties and improve their performances.
The knowledge of the picosecond dynamics of the energy level alignment between donor and acceptor materials in organic photovoltaic devices under working conditions is a challenge for fundamental material research. We measured by means of time-resolved Resonant X-ray Photoemission Spectroscopy (RPES) the energy level alignment in ZnPc/C60 films. We employed 800 nm femtosecond laser pulses to pump the system simulating sunlight excitation and X-rays from the synchrotron as a probe. We measured changes in the valence bands due to pump induced modifications of the interface dipole. Our measurements prove the feasibility of time-resolved RPES with high repetition rate sources.
This thesis completes my work as doctoral student of the Scuola di Dottorato in Fisica, Astrofisica e Fisica Applicata at the Università degli Studi di Milano that has been carried out, starting in November 4236, mostly at the Laboratorio TASC of IOM-CNR3 in the premises of the Elettra - Sincrotrone Trieste and FERMI@Elettra infrastructures4, in the framework of the NFFA and APE-beamline facilites5, as well as by accessing international large scale infrastructures and laboratories. The activity has addressed the development of experimental methodologies and novel instrumentation oriented to the study of the dynamical properties of highly correlated materials after high energy excitation. The science programme has been carried out by exploiting ultrafast femtosecond probes from the optical regime (Ti-Sa lasers, fibre laser oscillators) to the extreme UV-soft X rays at FERMI, to the picosecond hard X-rays from the SPring-: and Diamond synchrotron radiation source. The sample synthesis of correlated oxides and its characterization has been performed within the NFFA facility and APE-group collaboration in Trieste as well as the design and construction of the all new laser High Harmonic Generation beam line NFFA-SPRINT and its end station for time resolved vectorial electron spin polarimetry.
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.