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.
Palladium ditelluride (PdTe2) is a novel transition‐metal dichalcogenide exhibiting type‐II Dirac fermions and topological superconductivity. To assess its potential in technology, its chemical and thermal stability is investigated by means of surface‐science techniques, complemented by density functional theory, with successive implementation in electronics, specifically in a millimeter‐wave receiver. While water adsorption is energetically unfavorable at room temperature, due to a differential Gibbs free energy of ≈+12 kJ mol−1, the presence of Te vacancies makes PdTe2 surfaces unstable toward surface oxidation with the emergence of a TeO2 skin, whose thickness remains sub‐nanometric even after one year in air. Correspondingly, the measured photocurrent of PdTe2‐based optoelectronic devices shows negligible changes (below 4%) in a timescale of one month, thus excluding the need of encapsulation in the nanofabrication process. Remarkably, the responsivity of a PdTe2‐based millimeter‐wave receiver is 13 and 21 times higher than similar devices based on black phosphorus and graphene in the same operational conditions, respectively. It is also discovered that pristine PdTe2 is thermally stable in a temperature range extending even above 500 K, thus paving the way toward PdTe2‐based high‐temperature electronics. Finally, it is shown that the TeO2 skin, formed upon air exposure, can be removed by thermal reduction via heating in vacuum.
Cu2ZnSnS4 (CZTS) nanocrystals (NCs) were produced via hot-injection from metal chloride precursors. A systematic investigation of the influence of synthesis conditions on composition, size and microstructure of CZTS NCs is presented. The results show that the solvent amount (oleylamine) is a key parameter in the synthesis of this quaternary chalcogenide: a low solvent content leads to CZTS NCs with a prominent kesterite phase with the desired composition for use as absorber material in thin film photovoltaic cells. It is also observed that lowering the injection temperature (250 °C) favours formation of CZTS NCs in the wurtzite phase. The effect of different high temperature thermal treatments on the grain growth is also shown: large crystals are obtained with annealing in inert atmosphere, whereas nanocrystalline films are obtained introducing sulphur vapour during the heat treatment. A correlation between the grain dimension and the carbonaceous residues in the final films is investigated. It is shown that the grain growth is hindered by organic residues, amount and nature of which depend on the heat treatment atmosphere. In fact, oleylamine is removed by a complex pyrolytic process, which is affected by the presence of sulphur vapour. The latter favours the stability of oleylamine residuals against its non-oxidative release.
Materials exhibiting nodal‐line fermions promise superb impact on technology for the prospect of dissipationless spintronic devices. Among nodal‐line semimetals, the ZrSiX (X = S, Se, Te) class is the most suitable candidate for such applications. However, the surface chemical reactivity of ZrSiS and ZrSiSe has not been explored yet. Here, by combining different surface‐science tools and density functional theory, it is demonstrated that the formation of ZrSiS and ZrSiSe surfaces by cleavage is accompanied by the washing up of the exotic topological bands, giving rise to the nodal line. Moreover, while the ZrSiS has a termination layer with both Zr and S atoms, in the ZrSiSe surface, reconstruction occurs with the appearance of Si surface atoms, which is particularly prone to oxidation. It is demonstrated that the chemical activity of ZrSiX compounds is mostly determined by the interaction of the Si layer with the ZrX sublayer. A suitable encapsulation for ZrSiX should not only preserve their surfaces from interaction with oxidative species, but also provide a saturation of dangling bonds with minimal distortion of the surface.
The design and characterization of a HHG source conceived for Time and Angle Resolved PhotoElectron Spectroscopy (TR-ARPES) experiments are presented. The harmonics are selected through a grating monochromator with an innovative design able to provide XUV radiation for two distinct TR-ARPES setups.
PtTe2 is a novel transition-metal dichalcogenide hosting type-II Dirac fermions that displays application capabilities in optoelectronics and hydrogen evolution reaction. Here it is shown, by combining surface science experiments and density functional theory, that the pristine surface of PtTe2 is chemically inert toward the most common ambient gases (oxygen and water) and even in air. It is demonstrated that the creation of Te vacancies leads to the appearance of tellurium-oxide phases upon exposing defected PtTe2 surfaces to oxygen or ambient atmosphere, which is detrimental for the ambient stability of uncapped PtTe2-based devices. On the contrary, in PtTe2 surfaces modified by the joint presence of Te vacancies and substitutional carbon atoms, the stable adsorption of hydroxyl groups is observed, an essential step for water splitting and the water–gas shift reaction. These results thus pave the way toward the exploitation of this class of Dirac materials in catalysis.
The electric and nonvolatile control of the spin texture in semiconductors would represent a fundamental step toward novel electronic devices combining memory and computing functionalities. Recently, GeTe has been theoretically proposed as the father compound of a new class of materials, namely ferroelectric Rashba semiconductors. They display bulk bands with giant Rashba-like splitting due to the inversion symmetry breaking arising from the ferroelectric polarization, thus allowing for the ferroelectric control of the spin. Here, we provide the experimental demonstration of the correlation between ferroelectricity and spin texture. A surface-engineering strategy is used to set two opposite predefined uniform ferroelectric polarizations, inward and outward, as monitored by piezoresponse force microscopy. Spin and angular resolved photoemission experiments show that these GeTe(111) surfaces display opposite sense of circulation of spin in bulk Rashba bands. Furthermore, we demonstrate the crafting of nonvolatile ferroelectric patterns in GeTe films at the nanoscale by using the conductive tip of an atomic force microscope. Based on the intimate link between ferroelectric polarization and spin in GeTe, ferroelectric patterning paves the way to the investigation of devices with engineered spin configurations.
The knowledge of the picosecond dynamics of the energy level alignment between donor and acceptor materials in organic photovoltaic devices under working conditions is a challenge for fundamental material research. We measured by means of time-resolved Resonant X-ray Photoemission Spectroscopy (RPES) the energy level alignment in ZnPc/C60 films. We employed 800 nm femtosecond laser pulses to pump the system simulating sunlight excitation and X-rays from the synchrotron as a probe. We measured changes in the valence bands due to pump induced modifications of the interface dipole. Our measurements prove the feasibility of time-resolved RPES with high repetition rate sources.
This thesis completes my work as doctoral student of the Scuola di Dottorato in Fisica, Astrofisica e Fisica Applicata at the Università degli Studi di Milano that has been carried out, starting in November 4236, mostly at the Laboratorio TASC of IOM-CNR3 in the premises of the Elettra - Sincrotrone Trieste and FERMI@Elettra infrastructures4, in the framework of the NFFA and APE-beamline facilites5, as well as by accessing international large scale infrastructures and laboratories. The activity has addressed the development of experimental methodologies and novel instrumentation oriented to the study of the dynamical properties of highly correlated materials after high energy excitation. The science programme has been carried out by exploiting ultrafast femtosecond probes from the optical regime (Ti-Sa lasers, fibre laser oscillators) to the extreme UV-soft X rays at FERMI, to the picosecond hard X-rays from the SPring-: and Diamond synchrotron radiation source. The sample synthesis of correlated oxides and its characterization has been performed within the NFFA facility and APE-group collaboration in Trieste as well as the design and construction of the all new laser High Harmonic Generation beam line NFFA-SPRINT and its end station for time resolved vectorial electron spin polarimetry.
This thesis reports on the construction and commissioning tests of the novel experimental set-up needed for a long term research project, named ULTRASPIN, aiming at establishing time resolved spin-resolved photoemission measurements with ultra-short (10−14 s) photon pulses from Free Electron Laser beamlines or from table-top UV/Soft-X beamlines.
The ULTRASPIN project started in the summer 2013, building on competences and instrumentation in part available from the APE-beamline group of IOM-CNR at Elettra, and with the partial support of an European contract (EXSTASY-EXperimental STation for the Analysis of the Spin Dynamics, Grant agreement N.PIIF-GA-2012-326641) and related fellowship of a world-expert of Mott scattering.
I have been involved from the beginning in the final design, in the construction and commissioning of a novel stray-field free UHV apparatus for preparing and hosting atomically clean surfaces and for measuring the spin-polarization of the photo-emitted electrons with “single pulse” sensitivity down to the 10−14 s time scale, as well as in the standard high frequency spectroscopy mode. In the commissioning phase I have participated to test experiments on ULTRASPIN as well as to relevant experiments conducted in other apparatuses.