The Thin Films and Interfaces Group
Thin films are nowadays utilized in many applications, ranging from semiconductor devices to optical coatings and are even present in pharmaceuticals (polymers). This wide-spread application of films with thicknesses from atomic monolayers to microns is due to the developments of thin film deposition techniques. Thin films are also important for studies of materials with new and unique properties due to the possibility of tuning their crystallographic and morphological properties. The thin film approach, i.e. the presence of interfaces (to a substrate or the film surface) adds more degrees of freedom for influencing the properties of materials, e.g. by lattice strain or surface functionalization. For these fundamental studies of material properties large research facilities such as synchrotron radiation or neutron spallation sources are one of the keys that the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) provides. Read more
LaTiOxNy oxynitride thin films are employed to study the surface modifications at the solid- liquid interface that occur during photoelectrocatalytic water splitting. Neutron reflectometry and grazing incidence x-ray absorption spectroscopy were utilised to distinguish between the surface and bulk signals, with a surface sensitivity of 3 nm.
Mixed oxides derived from the perovskite structure by combination of A- and B-site elements and by partial substitution of oxygen provide an immense playground of physico-chemical properties. Here, we give an account of our own research conducted at the Paul Scherrer Institute on perovskite-type oxides and oxynitrides used in electrochemical, photo(electro)chemical and catalytic processes aimed at facing energy relevant issues.
SrTiO3 thin films were grown on 18O-exchanged SrTiO3 single crystalline substrates by pulsed-laser deposition, rf sputtering, and oxide molecular-beam epitaxy to study their oxygen diffusion depth profiles using secondary ion mass spectrometry and elastic recoil detection analysis depth profiling. The oxygen depth profiling shows that SrTiO3 films prepared with the three different deposition techniques will take oxygen from the substrate, even at room temperature. This confirms that the substrate is one possible oxygen source for the growth of oxide thin films independent of the physical vapor deposition technique employed. It was also found that a reactive oxygen environment changes the oxygen composition of the substrate during the growth of a film and partly replaces 18O with 16O up to a depth of several tens of nm. These findings imply that SrTiO3 and therefore other ion conducting oxide substrates, which are commonly used as platforms for thin film growth, can be considered capricious in nature with respect to oxygen chemistry and lattice constants.
Understanding and controlling the electronic structure of thin layers of quantum materials is a crucial first step towards designing heterostructures where new phases and phenomena, including the metal-insulator transition (MIT), emerge. Here, we demonstrate control of the MIT via tuning electronic bandwidth and local site environment through selection of the number of atomic layers deposited.
Magnetic monopoles, proposed as elementary particles that act as isolated magnetic south and north poles, have long attracted research interest as magnetic analogs to electric charge. In solid-state physics, a classical analog to these elusive particles has emerged as topological excitations within pyrochlore spin ice systems. We present the first real-time imaging of emergent magnetic monopole motion in a macroscopically degenerate artificial spin ice system consisting of thermally activated Ising-type nanomagnets lithographically arranged onto a pre-etched silicon substrate. factors are observed.
Student projects at the Thin Films and Interfaces Group
Most of the time we have student projects related to the work we do.
Currently, we are looking for a Semester or Master Student on the topic of Photocatalytic H2 production starting September 2021. The semiconductor material is the main part of any system harvesting solar energy, which transforms absorbed solar photons into excited electronic states. Biological systems provide an environment to operate in a more complex, yet more efficient fashion compared to many synthetic catalysts. Thus, a platform for solar fuel development must combine the best of both systems: the light harvesting capabilities of semiconductors with the catalytical power of biology, known as inorganic-biological hybrid systems for semi-artificial photosynthesis.
PhD projects at the Thin Films and Interfaces Group
At present, we have no open PhD positions available. Other open positions are always published on the PSI Open Positions page.