Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Unprecedented look at oxide interfaces reveals unexpected structures on atomic scale

Thin layers of oxide materials and their interfaces have been observed in atomic resolution during growth for the first time by researchers at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, providing new insight into the complicated link between their structure and properties.

"Imagine you suddenly had the ability to see in color, or in 3-D," said the CNMS's Sergei Kalinin. "That is how close we have been able to look at these very small interfaces."

The paper was published online in ACS Nano with ORNL's Junsoo Shin as lead author.

A component of magnetoelectronics and spintronics, oxide interfaces have the potential to replace silicon-based microelectronic devices and improve the power and memory retention of other electronic technologies.

However, oxide interfaces are difficult to analyze at the atomic scale because once the oxides are removed from their growth chamber they become contaminated. To circumvent this problem, ORNL researchers led by Art Baddorf built a unique system that allows scanning tunneling microscopy and low energy electron diffraction to capture images of the top layer of the oxide while in situ, or still in the vacuum chamber where the materials were grown by powerful laser pulses.

Many studies of similar oxide interfaces utilize a look from the side, typically achieved by aberration corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM). The ORNL team has used these cross-sectional images to map the oxide organization.

However, like a sandwich, oxide interfaces may be more than what they appear from the side. In order to observe the interactive layer of the top and bottom oxide, the group has used scanning tunneling microscopy to get an atomically resolved view of the surface of the oxide, and observed its evolution during the growth of a second oxide film on top.

"Instead of seeing a perfectly flat, square lattice that scientists thought these interfaces were before, we found a different and very complicated atomic ordering," said Baddorf. "We really need to reassess what we know about these materials."

Oxides can be used in different combinations to produce unique results. For instance, isolated, two oxides may be insulators but together the interface may become conductive. By viewing the atomic structure of one oxide, scientists can more effectively couple oxides to perform optimally in advanced technological applications such as transistors.

Kalinin says the correct application of these interface-based materials may open new pathways for development of computer processors and energy storage and conversion devices, as well as understanding basic physics controlling these materials.

"In the last 10 years, there has been only limited progress in developing beyond-silicon information technologies," Kalinin said. "Silicon has limitations that have been reached, and this has motivated people to explore other options."

Atomic resolution of interface structures during oxide growth will better enable scientists to identify defects of certain popular oxide combinations and could help narrow selections of oxides to spur new or more efficient commercial applications.

This research is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science.

The Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences at ORNL is one of the five DOE Nanoscale Science Research Centers supported by the DOE Office of Science, premier national user facilities for interdisciplinary research at the nanoscale. Together the NSRCs comprise a suite of complementary facilities that provide researchers with state-of-the-art capabilities to fabricate, process, characterize and model nanoscale materials, and constitute the largest infrastructure investment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The NSRCs are located at DOE's Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge and Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories. For more information about the DOE NSRCs, please visit

ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy's Office of Science.

Katie Freeman | EurekAlert!
Further information:

Further reports about: Energy Materials Science NSRCs Nanophase ORNL Science TV

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA
27.10.2016 | University of Oklahoma

nachricht First results of NSTX-U research operations
26.10.2016 | DOE/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

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

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>