This project is co-funded by the Electronic and Photonic Materials (EPM) and Ceramics (CER) Programs in the Division of Materials Research (DMR).
The past several years have seen a significant increase in research of ultrathin (up to 5 nanometers) epitaxial films. Exciting, new phenomena, such as novel electronic functionalities found in oxide materials, have been discovered. The properties of interfaces and surfaces are central to an understanding of these new phenomena. This project is centered on developing an atomistic picture of the structure and composition of several materials systems. The main experimental approach is medium-energy ion scattering, which is complemented and correlated in particular with scanning transmission electron microscopy, and also with scanning probe microscopy, photoelectron spectroscopy and electrical measurements. Specific research projects include (i) investigations of the interfaces between complex oxide materials, (ii) studies of materials whose bandgap can be manipulated over a very large range, making them promising candidates for novel optical and photochemical applications, and (iii) epitaxial films of topological insulators with potential impact on quantum computing.
A central focus of materials science today is the creation of new materials with novel and useful properties. Entirely new functionalities can result in commercially important new devices for computation, communication and energy applications. In order to understand the properties of these materials it is crucial to know on an atomic level their composition and the way the different atoms are arranged. This project is centered on studies of the structure and composition of several new materials systems. The main experimental approach is based on using energetic ions to probe surface and interface composition, a powerful tool to probe buried interfaces. It is complemented with a wide variety of spectroscopies sensitive to the electronic structure. The research project provides excellent opportunities for hands-on experience for students in the development and use of sophisticated scientific equipment and broadens their scientific horizons through established collaborations with scientists from Latin America. The direct and visually oriented nature of the information obtained makes it easy to communicate the excitement of materials science to students all the way from middle school to advanced graduate students.