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Atomic resolution studies of oxide superlattices and ultrathin films

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Title: Atomic resolution studies of oxide superlattices and ultrathin films
Author(s): Shah, Amish B.
Director of Research: Zuo, Jian-Min
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Zuo, Jian-Min
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Eckstein, James N.; Bhattacharya, Anand; Abelson, John R.; Dillon, Shen J.
Department / Program: Materials Science & Engineerng
Discipline: Materials Science & Engr
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Oxide superlattices electronic structure Electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS) Scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) Aberration correction Transmission electron microscopy LaMnO3 SrMnO3 SrTiO3 LaAlO3
Abstract: The ability to grow ultrathin films layer-by-layer with well-defined epitaxial relationships has allowed research groups worldwide to grow a range of artificial films and superlattices, first for semiconductors, and now with oxides. In the oxides thin film research community, there have been concerted efforts recently to develop a number of epitaxial oxide systems grown on single crystal oxide substrates that display a wide variety of novel interfacial functionality, such as enhanced ferromagnetic ordering, increased charge carrier density, increased optical absorption, etc, at interfaces. The magnitude of these novel properties is dependent upon the structure of thin films, especially interface sharpness, intermixing, defects, and strain, layering sequence in the case of superlattices and the density of interfaces relative to the film thicknesses. To understand the relationship between the interfacial thin film oxide atomic structure and its properties, atomic scale characterization is required. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) offers the ability to study interfaces of films at high resolution. Scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) allows for real space imaging of materials with directly interpretable atomic number contrast. Electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS), together with STEM, can probe the local chemical composition as well as local electronic states of transition metals and oxygen. Both techniques have been significantly improved by aberration correctors, which reduce the probe size to 1 Å, or less. Aberration correctors have thus made it possible to resolve individual atomic columns, and possibly probe the electronic structure at atomic scales. Separately, using electron probe forming lenses, structural information such as the crystal structure, strain, lattice mismatches, and superlattice ordering can be measured by nanoarea electron diffraction (NED). The combination of STEM, EELS, and NED techniques allows us to gain a fundamental understanding of the properties of oxide superlattices and ultrathin films and their relationship with the corresponding atomic and electronic structure. In this dissertation, I use the aforementioned electron microscopy techniques to investigate several oxide superlattice and ultrathin film systems. The major findings are summarized below. These results were obtained with stringent specimen preparation methods that I developed for high resolution studies, which are described in Chapter 2. The essential materials background and description of electron microscopy techniques are given in Chapter 1 and 2. In a LaMnO3-SrMnO3 superlattice, we demonstrate the interface of LaMnO3-SrMnO3 is sharper than the SrMnO3-LaMnO3 interface. Extra spectral weights in EELS are confined to the sharp interface, whereas at the rougher interface, the extra states are either not present or are not confined to the interface. Both the structural and electronic asymmetries correspond to asymmetric magnetic ordering at low temperature. In a short period LaMnO3-SrTiO3 superlattice for optical applications, we discovered a modified band structure in SrTiO3 ultrathin films relative to thick films and a SrTiO3 substrate, due to charge leakage from LaMnO3 in SrTiO3. This was measured by chemical shifts of the Ti L and O K edges using atomic scale EELS. The interfacial sharpness of LaAlO3 films grown on SrTiO3 was investigated by the STEM/EELS technique together with electron diffraction. This interface, when prepared under specific conditions, is conductive with high carrier mobility. Several suggestions for the conductive interface have been proposed, including a polar catastrophe model, where a large built-in electric field in LaAlO3 films results in electron charge transfer into the SrTiO3 substrate. Other suggested possibilities include oxygen vacancies at the interface and/or oxygen vacancies in the substrate. The abruptness of the interface as well as extent of intermixing has not been thoroughly investigated at high resolution, even though this can strongly influence the electrical transport properties. We found clear evidence for cation intermixing through the LaAlO3-SrTiO3 interface with high spatial resolution EELS and STEM, which contributes to the conduction at the interface. We also found structural defects, such as misfit dislocations, which leads to increased intermixing over coherent interfaces.
Issue Date: 2011-01-21
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/18649
Rights Information: Copyright 2010 by Amish B. Shah
Date Available in IDEALS: 2011-01-21
2013-01-22
Date Deposited: 2010-12
 

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