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 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.
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.
Research on ultrathin quantum materials requires full control of the growth and surface quality of the specimens in order to perform experiments on their atomic structure and electron states leading to ultimate analysis of their intrinsic properties. We report results on epitaxial FeSe thin films grown by pulsed laser deposition (PLD) on CaF2 (001) substrates as obtained by exploiting the advantages of an all-in-situ ultra-high vacuum (UHV) laboratory allowing for direct high-resolution surface analysis by scanning tunnelling microscopy (STM), synchrotron radiation X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy (ARPES) on fresh surfaces. FeSe PLD growth protocols were fine-tuned by optimizing target-to-substrate distance d and ablation frequency, atomically flat terraces with unit-cell step heights are obtained, overcoming the spiral morphology often observed by others. In-situ ARPES with linearly polarized horizontal and vertical radiation shows hole-like and electron-like pockets at the Γ and M points of the Fermi surface, consistent with previous observations on cleaved single crystal surfaces. The control achieved in growing quantum materials with volatile elements such as Se by in-situ PLD makes it possible to address the fine analysis of the surfaces by in-situ ARPES and XPS. The study opens wide avenues for the PLD based heterostructures as work-bench for the understanding of proximity-driven effects and for the development of prospective devices based on combinations of quantum materials.
Perovskite-based heterostructures have recently gained remarkable interest, thanks to atomic-scale precision engineering. These systems are very susceptible to small variations of control parameters, such as two-dimensionality, strain, lattice polarizability, and doping. Focusing on the rare-earth nickelate diagram, LaNiO3 (LNO) catches the eye, being the only nickelate that does not undergo a metal-to-insulator transition (MIT). Therefore, the ground state of LNO has been studied in several theoretical and experimental papers. Here, we show by means of infrared spectroscopy that an MIT can be driven by dimensionality control in ultrathin LNO films when the number of unit cells drops to 2. Such a dimensionality tuning can eventually be tailored when a physically implemented monolayer in the ultrathin films is replaced by a digital single layer embedded in the Ruddlesden–Popper Lan+1NinO3n+1 series. We provide spectroscopic evidence that the dimensionality-induced MIT in Ruddlesden–Popper nickelates strongly resembles that of ultrathin LNO films. Our results can pave the way to the employment of Ruddlesden–Popper Lan+1NinO3n+1 to tune the electronic properties of LNO through dimensional transition without the need of physically changing the number of unit cells in thin films.
The electronic properties of hole- and electron-doped manganites were probed by a combination of x-ray absorption and photoemission spectroscopies. Hole-doped La0.7Ba0.3MnO3 and electron-doped La0.7Ce0.3MnO3 thin films were epitaxially grown on SrTiO3 substrates by means of pulsed laser deposition. Ex-situ x-ray diffraction demonstrated the substrate/film epitaxy relation and in-situ low energy electron diffraction provided evidence of high structural order of film surfaces. By combining synchrotron x-ray absorption and x-ray photoemission spectroscopy, evidence of Mn ions into a 2+ state as a result of the Ce substitution in the electron-doped manganites was provided. Angular resolved photo-emission spectroscopy (ARPES) results showed a predominance of z2-orbitals at the surface of both hole- and, unexpectedly, electron-doped manganites thus questioning the validity of the commonly accepted scenario describing the electron filling in manganites’ 3d orbitals in oxide manganites. The precise determination of the electronic and orbital properties of the terminating layers of oxide manganites paves the way for engineering multi-layered heterostructures thus leading to novel opportunities in the field of quantum electronics.
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.
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.
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.
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.