Probing vacancy behavior across complex oxide heterointerfaces

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Science Advances  22 Feb 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 2, eaau8467
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau8467


Oxygen vacancies (Embedded Image) play a critical role as defects in complex oxides in establishing functionality in systems including memristors, all-oxide electronics, and electrochemical cells that comprise metal-insulator-metal or complex oxide heterostructure configurations. Improving oxide-oxide interfaces necessitates a direct, spatial understanding of vacancy distributions that define electrochemically active regions. We show vacancies deplete over micrometer-level distances in Nb-doped SrTiO3 (Nb:SrTiO3) substrates due to deposition and post-annealing processes. We convert the surface potential across a strontium titanate/yttria-stabilized zirconia (STO/YSZ) heterostructured film to spatial (<100 nm) vacancy profiles within STO using (T = 500°C) in situ scanning probes and semiconductor analysis. Oxygen scavenging occurring during pulsed laser deposition reduces Nb:STO substantially, which partially reoxidizes in an oxygen-rich environment upon cooling. These results (i) introduce the means to spatially resolve quantitative vacancy distributions across oxide films and (ii) indicate the mechanisms by which oxide thin films enhance and then deplete vacancies within the underlying substrate.

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