Given the urgency of achieving the forthcoming zero emission targets, the research of green fuels and efficient catalysts able to easily convert them in other valuable compounds is fundamental. The work presented in this thesis is focused on the application of an innovative spectroscopic technique, the operando Soft X-Rays NEXAFS spectroscopy, in order to investigate the surface reactivity of heterogeneous catalysts. In fact, it is well known the importance that operando characterizations have acquired in recent years, allowing to study a material at its working conditions. Since the technique requires the use of Synchrotron Radiation and a specific experimental setup, all the measurements reported in this thesis have been performed exploiting a home made reaction cell developed at the APE-HE beamline, at Elettra Synchrotron (Trieste). In this thesis work, we investigated the possibility of coupling the operando NEXAFS technique with other in situ spectroscopies, together with standard ex situ characterizations and computational simulations. This multitechnique approach allowed to extract the maximum potential of the technique, addressing its role as a key tool in the optic of speeding up the design of efficient heterogeneous catalysts.
The catalytic reactions investigated in this thesis are focused on methanol valorization, given its great potential in numerous applications related to the energy transition. In detail, we focused our first investigation on methanol production through the direct partial oxidation of methane, catalysed by a CeO2/CuO composite synthesized using a scalable and green milling process. We exploited the combination of in situ DRIFT and operando Soft X-Ray NEXAFS spectroscopies to monitor at the same time the electronic structure modifications occurring at the catalyst surface and the adsorbates evolution during the different reaction steps.
The operando analysis of the Cu L2,3 and Ce M4,5 edges during the catalyst thermal activation allowed us to detect a charge transfer from Ce3+ surface sites to Cu2+ atoms, resulting in the formation of reactive sites close to the CeO2/CuO interface. When the sample was exposed to CH4 at 250°C and at a pressure of 1 bar, a Cu2+ → Cu+ reduction was observed, indicating that the catalyst is able to activate the methane molecule. At the same time, DRIFT spectra shown the formation of methoxy and formate species, that are products of methane activation on the surface. Adding an oxidizing agent (O2), Cu+ sites were re-oxidized to Cu2+, together with the disappearing of the methoxy and formate related structures in the DRIFT spectra. The results indicated the reversibility of the chemical modifications occurring at the catalyst surface. During the operando NEXAFS experiment, the reaction products were monitored with an online micro-GC: the main products observed during the reaction were CO2, H2O, CH2O and CH3OH, indicating that total and partial oxidation of methane were occurring. As a comparison, an equivalent experiment has been conducted on a similar CeO2/CuO catalyst synthetized with a conventional impregnation method. In this case, no spectroscopic modification were observed with both NEXAFS and DRIFT techniques, confirming that the synthetic method used is crucial in creating specific active sites for methane activation and oxidation. The experimental results have been validated through DFT calculations, which confirmed that when CuO and CeO2 surfaces merge during the synthesis, a net charge transfer from Ce to Cu atoms occurs in proximity of the CeO2 − CuO interface. Another promising route to valorize methanol is represented by its catalytic decomposition to syngas mixture (H2 + CO), whose reaction mechanism was investigated in the second part of the thesis. Indeed, one major challenge for this reaction is related to the quest for stable, cost-effective, and selective catalysts operating below 400 °C. In the present study, we illustrate a surface reactivity study of a Ni3Sn4 catalyst working at 250 °C, by combining density functional theory (DFT), operando NEXAFS at ambient pressure, in situ XPS and high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HR-TEM). For Ni3Sn4, we discovered that the catalytic reaction is driven by surface tin-oxide phases, able to protect the underlying Ni atoms from irreversible chemical modifications, increasing the catalyst durability. Moreover, exploiting the online micro-GC connected to the operando NEXAFS reaction cell and by comparing the results with a Ni3Sn2 compound, 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.
This thesis completes my work as doctoral student of the Scuola di Dottorato in Fisica, Astrofisica e Fisica Applicata at the Universit`a degli Studi di Milano, that has been carried out since November 2019 at the Istituto Officina dei Materiali of the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (IOM-CNR) in the premises of the Elettra - Sincrotrone Trieste and FERMI@Elettra infrastructures and in the framework of the NFFA facility.
My experimental activity employed complementary spectroscopy and polarimetry techniques oriented to address the characterisation of electronic and spin properties of systems with decreasing dimensionality. This programme has been conducted by exploiting state-of-the-art infrastructures to generate visible, UV and EUV ultrashort pulses (tabletop lasers and HHG at NFFA-SPRINT laboratory) and soft X-ray synchrotron light (at Elettra, Diamond and ESRF synchrotron light sources).
I used photoemission as the main tool in my investigation, supplementing my results with absorption spectroscopy. I focused on three materials, Fe(001)-p(1x1)O/MgO, EuSn2P2 and VI3, of high interest in modern and next-generation magnetic devices.
In the three systems I studied the electronic band structure to identify key features hinting at the bound electrons behaviour. I investigated the properties of the magnetically ordered phases and found evidence of the reduced dimensionality in the emergence of atypical spin ordering and the increasingly manifest electron correlation phenomena.
The information retained by band electrons is critical to access the spin polarisation of the bands and to give insight into the effects of spatial confinement on the spin degree of freedom.
MOFs or Metal Organic Frameworks are relatively new organic-inorganic hybrid materials that consist of a regular array of positive metal ions connected by organic 'linker' molecules to create a periodic and crystalline structure.
They have been widely studied in the last past two decades for their promising properties (such as porosity, gas adsorption and storage, flexibility/rigidness, low density…) and chemical tunability.
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.
This thesis is focused the structural and spectroscopic characterization of multiferroic heterostructures composed of a thin film of iron, which is ferromagnetic, deposited on a bulk PMN-PT ([Pb(Mg1/3Nb2/3)O3]1−x–[PbTiO3]x) substrate, which is ferroelectric. The epitaxially grown interface between two mate-rials displays the magnetoelectric coupling. By applying an electric field across the thickness of the substrate (i.e. along the growth direction) it is possible to polarize and deform the ferroelectric crystal structure, thus manipulating the magnetic properties of the over-layer. In this work, we analyse how the two opposite polarized states of the PMN-PT affect the magnetic anisotropy of the iron overlayer and the role of morphology in this modifications. In particular the morphology represents an important factor in the magnetoelectric mechanisms that has been little investigated before.
The present thesis work has been performed within a new-born laboratory called Spin Polar-ization Research Instrument in the Nanoscale and Time domain (SPRINT laboratory), as apart of the research infrastructures circuit NFFA-Trieste (Nano Foundries and Fine Analysis -belonging to the wider NFFA-Europe circuit) and hosted in the experimental hall of the freeelectron laser FERMI@Elettra.The SPRINT laboratory rises as an answer to the urgent request of the scientific communityof extension of photoemission spectroscopies (PES), not only energy-, but possibly also angle-and spin-resolved, to the time domain in the sub-picosecond regime. The integration of a PESapparatus within a setup for stroboscopic measurements (that is in a pump-probe scheme) pavesthe way to time resolved study of the relaxation of optically populated electronic states, thusenabling the study the ultrafast dynamics of the excitations inside the materials, with greatbenefit from both the fundamental and the technological point of view.
This thesis contains a selection of the results on the shallow electron states of quantum materials that I obtained as doctoral student of the Scuola di Dottorato in Fisica, Astrofisica e Fisica Applicata at the Università degli Studi di Milano. I carried out my doctoral research activity mostly at the TASC-IOM CNR laboratory, in the framework of the NFFA and APE-beamline facilities (Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste), as well in dedicated sessions at the I2; beamline of the Diamond light source, Harwell Campus, UK. To access the electronic properties of materials I specialised myself in photoemission spectroscopy techniques. High quality samples are a prerequisite for any attempt to study quantum materials so that a major effort in my PhD project has been to master the growth of novel quantum materials by means of Pulsed Laser Deposition (PLD). Given that the PLD is integrated in the suite of UHV facilities attached in-situ to the APE beamline, I directly characterised the electronic properties of the PLD grown samples exploiting both the spectroscopic techniques available at the beamline (ARPES, X-ray photoemission and absorption spectroscopies: XPS and XAS), either ex-situ structural characterisation tools (X-ray diffraction –XRD– and X-ray reflectivity, XRR).
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.
In this work, I am going to present the main results of the scientific activity in which I was involved during my summer internship at CNR-IOM in Trieste (Italy) during the period, May 16, 2019 to August 10, 2019.
This report focuses on the magneto-optic Kerr effect (MOKE) investigations done on two set of samples.
The first set of samples regards the optimization of the deposition parameters of CoFeB, in order to obtain a sample with low coercive field and isotropic behavior. The aim is to obtain a soft isotropic ferromagnetic layer, for further implementation into ferroelectric/ferromagnetic heterostructures.
The second set regards a run of experiments with the aim of setting an exchange bias coupling by partially oxidizing the ferromagnetic layer through the substrate deoxidation. Here Fe (10 nm) ferromagnetic layer is deposited on substrate Lithium Niobate (LNZ).
Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is mainly present in nature in three different polymorphs: rutile, brookite and anatase. In particular, the latter is largely studied due to its promising future applications in several devices like memristors and solar cells, as well as implementations in spintronics and transparent conductive oxides. In this framework, the most important physical quantity is certainly conductivity: it is thus fundamental to analyze and control the electronic properties of anatase with a particular attention to the surface, which plays a remarkable role in the previous applications.
Rutile TiO2 is thermodinamically favoured at the common ambient pressure and temperature, while anatase is favoured instead at the nanometric scale: for these reasons, thin films Pulsed Laser Deposition (PLD) enables a controlled and functionalized growth of anatase, thanks to the extreme versatility and accuracy of this technique.
This work was carried out at the NFFA (Nano Foundries and Fine Analysis) - APE (Advanced Photoelectric Effect) beamline, part of the CNR - IOM group, which exploits the synchrotron radiation emitted by the third generation storage ring Elettra. In particular, APE beamline is a state-of-the-art surface science laboratory, which includes a thin film pulsed laser deposition chamber connected through a multi-component ultra-high vacuum (UHV) system to two distinct endstations, where the electronic properties of the samples are analyzed with low energy (8 120 eV ) and high energy (150 1600 eV ) x-rays. It is thus possible to deposit thin films of the desired material and subsequently perform measurements with synchrotron light without exposing the sample to air, preventing an irreversible contamination of the surface.
Le proprietà ottiche, elettroniche e magnetiche dei solidi e delle loro superfici dipendono dalla struttura degli stati elettronici entro alcuni eV dal livello di Fermi. I calcoli della struttura elettronica a bande sono efficaci solo nel caso di materiali a bassa interazione elettrone-elettrone (correlazione). L'esperimento e la guida necessaria per lo studio delle proprietà elettroniche dei solidi e delle loro superfici, ed in particolare la spettroscopia di fotoemissione (photoemission spectroscopy - PES) che si basa sulla misura dello spettro energetico degli elettroni emessi da un solido eccitato da un fascio di fotoni monocromatici di energia eccedente la funzione lavoro. La risoluzione dell'angolo di emissione (Angle-resolved photemission spectroscopy - ARPES) permette di avere informazioni sulla legge di dispersione En(k) dello stato elettronico iniziale, mentre la misura del grado di polarizzazione in spin del fascio di elettroni completa il set di numeri quantici, fornendo un dato molto importante per lo studio delle correlazioni elettroniche.
La misura della polarizzazione in spin di un fascio di elettroni fotoemessi da una superficie ferromagnetica permette di studiare in modo diretto la struttura elettronica determinata dall’interazione di scambio e quindi il momento magnetico di spin del sistema, caratterizzandone il comportamento magnetico. Da una parte lo sviluppo del campo della spintronica, dall’altra la richiesta sempre crescente di strumenti e dispositivi di immagazzinamento e trattamento dati ad alte prestazioni, marcano la necessità di esplorare le configurazioni degli stati elettronici e le loro eccitazioni.
The main goal of this dissertation is the study of the effects induced by quantum confinement in transition-metal oxides quantum wells (QWs). The field of possible applications of oxide-based heterostructures (oxide-based nanoelectronics, spintronics, quantum computation, excitonic devices, energy conversion in solar cells, etc.) is very ample and growing, thanks to the many fascinating and exotic properties of transition-metal oxides and their versatility as well. p-type SrMnO3/La0.7Sr0.3MnO3/SrMnO3QWs and n-type SrCuO2/Sr0.9La0.1CuO2/SrCuO2QWs have been studied. The first part of my work has been devoted to the investigation of quantum confinement achievement using a Mott insulator with a small band gap. The observed results suggest that this type of material can be successfully used in QWs.As a final result of my work, the achievement of dimensional effects induced by the layering on the normal state of both investigated systems (n and p-doped) has been assessed. In addition, the layering has been shown to influence the superconducting state of the investigated n-doped QWs and on the metal-to-insulator transition of the p-doped QWs. The investigation of the behavior of each layer constituent the QW (both nand p-doped) is relevant in view of future growth of proximate p-ndoped systems. Part of my work, therefore, has been devoted to the study of the properties of (Sr,La)CuO2thin films. The study of electrical transport properties of SLCO thin films as a function of the doping has allowed to relate the presence of the low temperature upturn in the (Sr,La)CuO2resistivity versus temperature curves the quantum interference effects produced by weak localization effects. Furthermore, the presence of low temperature Fermi liquid behaviors in SLCO thin films has also been observed.The last part of my work has dealt with the effects of the in-situannealing step on the final superconductivity properties of the (Sr,La)CuO2films, helping to optimize the growth step, crucial for the quality of this thin film and, consequently, of the n-doped QWs based on this compound. The effect of annealing, i.e. of the O content, has been studied, by using X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy (XAS) measurements performed at the Elettra Synchrotron in Trieste, Italy, and has allowed to reveal clear signature of apical Oxygen removal.
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.
One of the most fascinating challenges in modern solid state physics, both from a theoretical and an experimental point of view, is the comprehension of electron correlation and how it can aect the macroscopic properties of materials. Eects of electron correlation are extremely important in materials with open d and f electron shells, where electrons are conned in narrow orbitals and the interaction between the electrons internal degrees of freedom are enhanced. In fact these systems are known to display some of the most intriguing phenomena in condensed matter physics, such as:
The possibility to exploit these properties to realise devices has driven many theoretical and experimental eorts directed to understand how to describe these phenomena and how to control them by manipulating external parameters such as temperature, doping, etc.
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.