Strain-induced phenomenon in complex oxide thin films

Open Access
Haislmaier, Ryan Cory
Graduate Program:
Materials Science and Engineering
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
September 23, 2016
Committee Members:
  • Venkatraman Gopalan, Dissertation Advisor
  • Roman Engel-Herbert, Committee Chair
  • Susan E Trolier-Mckinstry, Committee Member
  • Long-Qing Chen, Committee Member
  • Thomas E Mallouk, Outside Member
  • Molecular beam epitaxy
  • ferroelectrics
  • superlattices
  • thin films
  • second harmonic generation
  • complex oxides
  • perovskites
Complex oxide materials wield an immense spectrum of functional properties such as ferroelectricity, ferromagnetism, magnetoelectricity, optoelectricity, optomechanical, magnetoresistance, superconductivity, etc. The rich coupling between charge, spin, strain, and orbital degrees of freedom makes this material class extremely desirable and relevant for next generation electronic devices and technologies which are trending towards nanoscale dimensions. Development of complex oxide thin film materials is essential for realizing their integration into nanoscale electronic devices, where theoretically predicted multifunctional capabilities of oxides could add tremendous value. Employing thin film growth strategies such as epitaxial strain and heterostructure interface engineering can greatly enhance and even unlock novel material properties in complex oxides, which will be the main focus of this work. However, physically incorporating oxide materials into devices remains a challenge. While advancements in molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) of thin film oxide materials has led to the ability to grow oxide materials with atomic layer precision, there are still major limitations such as controlling stoichiometric compositions during growth as well as creating abrupt interfaces in multi-component layered oxide structures. The work done in this thesis addresses ways to overcome these limitations in order to harness intrinsic material phenomena. The development of adsorption-controlled stoichiometric growth windows of CaTiO3 and SrTiO3 thin film materials grown by hybrid MBE where Ti is supplied using metal-organic titatnium tetraisopropoxide material is thoroughly outlined. These growth windows enable superior epitaxial strain-induced ferroelectric and dielectric properties to be accessed as demonstrated by chemical, structural, electrical, and optical characterization techniques. For tensile strained CaTiO3 and compressive strained SrTiO3 films, the critical effects of nonstoichiometry on ferroelectric properties are investigated, where enhanced ferroelectric responses are only found for stoichiometric films grown inside of the growth windows, whereas outside of the optimal growth window conditions, ferroelectric properties are greatly deteriorated and eventually disappear for highly nonstoichiometric film compositions. Utilizing these stoichiometric growth windows, high temperature polar phase transitions are discovered for compressively strained CaTiO3 films with transition temperatures in excess of 700 K, rendering this material as a strong candidate for high temperature electronic applications. Beyond the synthesis of single phase materials using hybrid MBE, a methodology is presented for constructing layered (SrTiO3)n/(CaTiO3)n superlattice structures, where precise control over the unit cell layering thickness (n) is demonstrated using in-situ reflection high energy electron diffraction. The effects of interface roughness and layering periodicity (n) on the strain-induced ferroelectric properties for a series of n=1-10 (SrTiO3)n/(CaTiO3)n superlattice films are investigated. It is found that the stabilization of a ferroelectric phase is independent of n, but is however strongly dominated by the degree of interface roughness which is quantified by measuring the highest nth order X-ray diffraction peak splitting of each superlattice film. A counter-intuitive realization is made whereby a critical amount of interface roughness is required in order to enable the formation of the predicted strain-stabilized ferroelectric phase, whereas sharp interfaces actually suppress this ferroelectric phase from manifesting. It is shown how high-quality complex oxide superlattices can be constructed using hybrid MBE technique, allowing the ability to control layered materials at the atomic scale. Furthermore, a detailed growth methodology is provided for constructing a layered n=4 SrO(SrTiO3)n Ruddlesden-Popper (RP) phase by hybrid MBE, where the ability to deposit single monolayers of SrO and TiO2 is utilized to build the RP film structure over a time period of 5 hours. This is the first time that a thin film RP phase has been grown using hybrid MBE, where an a stable control over the fluxes is demonstrated during relatively long time periods of growth, which advantageously facilitates the synthesis of high-quality RP materials with excellent structural and chemical homogeneity. Additionally, this work demonstrates some major advancements in optical second harmonic generation (SHG) characterization techniques of ferroelectric thin film materials. The SHG characterization techniques developed here proved to be the ‘bread-and-butter’ for most of the work performed in this thesis, providing a powerful tool for identifying the existence of strain-induced ferroelectric phases, including their temperature dependence and polar symmetry. The work presented in this dissertation will hopefully provide a preliminary road map for future hybrid MBE growers, scientists and researchers, to develop and investigate epitaxial strain and heterostructure layering induced phenomena in other complex oxide systems.