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.
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.
Materials and heterostructures that exhibit coupling between elastic and magnetic degrees of freedom are of both fundamental and technological interest. In particular, they have great potential for novel energy-efficient spintronic devices because acoustic waves can generate coherent and long-living spin waves through inverse magnetostriction, which consists in variations in the magnetization due to lattice deformations. As optical methods are versatile, non-invasive and contactless, an all-optical approach has been implemented and applied to study magnetoelastic coupling in a ferromagnetic film on a glass substrate.
The present thesis work was performed at the NFFA-SPRINT facility of IOM-CNR in the Fermi@Elettra hall at Trieste, where I actively contributed to the realization and characterization of an all new experimental setup which is able to combine transient grating spectroscopy with a time-resolved Faraday polarimetry.