The Thin Films and Interfaces Group
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.
Improved Photoelectrochemical Water Splitting of CaNbO2N Photoanodes by CoPi Photodeposition and Surface Passivation
Photoelectrochemical (PEC) solar water splitting is a promising approach to convert solar energy into sustainable hydrogen fuel using semiconductor electrodes. Owing to their visible light absorption properties, oxynitrides have shown to be attractive photocatalysts for this application. In this study, the influence of the preparation method of CaNbO2N particles on their morphological and optical properties, and thereby their PEC performance, is investigated. The best performing CaNbO2N photoanode is produced by ammonolysis of Nb-enriched calcium niobium oxide.