Research ArticlePHYSICS

Spontaneous phase segregation of Sr2NiO3 and SrNi2O3 during SrNiO3 heteroepitaxy

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Science Advances  05 Mar 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 10, eabe2866
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abe2866

Abstract

Recent discovery of superconductivity in Nd0.8Sr0.2NiO2 motivates the synthesis of other nickelates for providing insights into the origin of high-temperature superconductivity. However, the synthesis of stoichiometric R1−xSrxNiO3 thin films over a range of x has proven challenging. Moreover, little is known about the structures and properties of the end member SrNiO3. Here, we show that spontaneous phase segregation occurs while depositing SrNiO3 thin films on perovskite oxide substrates by molecular beam epitaxy. Two coexisting oxygen-deficient Ruddlesden-Popper phases, Sr2NiO3 and SrNi2O3, are formed to balance the stoichiometry and stabilize the energetically preferred Ni2+ cation. Our study sheds light on an unusual oxide thin-film nucleation process driven by the instability in perovskite structured SrNiO3 and the tendency of transition metal cations to form their most stable valence (i.e., Ni2+ in this case). The resulting metastable reduced Ruddlesden-Popper structures offer a testbed for further studying emerging phenomena in nickel-based oxides.

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