Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


ORNL study reveals new characteristics of complex oxide surfaces


A novel combination of microscopy and data processing has given researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory an unprecedented look at the surface of a material known for its unusual physical and electrochemical properties.

The research team led by ORNL’s Zheng Gai examined how oxygen affects the surface of a perovskite manganite, a complex material that exhibits dramatic magnetic and electronic behavior. The new avenue to understand surface behavior could benefit researchers who are interested in using a wide range of correlated oxide materials for applications such as solid fuel cells or oxygen sensors.

An Oak Ridge National Laboratory study combined microscopy and data processing to provide an unprecedented look at the surface of a magnanite material known for its unusual properties. The resulting “distortion maps” (right) brought into view structural areas called domains that were not easily identified in the raw images (left).

“Surface properties are key for any sensitive application, because the surface controls the interaction with the outside world,” said coauthor Art Baddorf.

The team’s results, published in Nature Communications, underscore why the materials are called “strongly correlated:” Because the chemical and physical functionalities are coupled, any minor change can influence the entire system.

“It’s like the material has many knobs, and if you turn one, all the properties change,” Gai said. “You turn a different knob and the whole thing changes again. It turns out the surface is another knob -- you can use it to change the properties.”

The researchers used high-resolution scanning tunneling microscopy to generate images of the manganite surface -- down to the level of 30 picometers. A picometer is one trillionth of a meter. They then processed the imaging data to determine the position of each atom and calculate the angles between the atoms.

“Knowing where the atoms are positioned shows how they are interacting,” Baddorf said.

The resulting “distortion maps” brought into view structural areas called domains that were not easily identified in the raw images. The maps clearly showed how the presence of oxygen atoms forced the atoms into a checkerboard pattern known as a Jahn-Teller distortion. Gai says the team’s study is the first time the phenomenon has been observed on a material’s surface.

“The oxygen totally changes the surface energy,” Gai said. “Once you introduce oxygen, the electrons don’t like to form a straight line; they zigzag to get to a lower energy state. This distortion is a very common concept in bulk materials, but nobody has been able to show this effect on the surface before.”

The study is published as “Chemically induced Jahn–Teller ordering on manganite surfaces.” Coauthors are ORNL’s Wenzhi Lin, Paul Snijders, Thomas Ward, J. Shen, Stephen Jesse, Sergei Kalinin, and Arthur Baddorf; University of Nebraska’s J.D. Burton and Evgeny Tsymbal; and IHI Corporation’s K. Fuchigami.

This research was conducted in part at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, a DOE Office of Science user facility. The DOE’s Office of Science supported the research.  Work at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was supported by the National Science Foundation.

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for the Department of Energy's Office of Science. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit

Morgan McCorkle | Eurek Alert!
Further information:

Further reports about: Laboratory Materials Sciences ORNL electrons images materials metal oxide surfaces

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht 3-D-printed structures shrink when heated
26.10.2016 | Massachusetts Institute of Technology

nachricht From ancient fossils to future cars
21.10.2016 | University of California - Riverside

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>