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  1. Abstract

    Polar skyrmions are predicted to emerge from the interplay of elastic, electrostatic and gradient energies, in contrast to the key role of the anti-symmetric Dzyalozhinskii-Moriya interaction in magnetic skyrmions. Here, we explore the reversible transition from a skyrmion state (topological charge of −1) to a two-dimensional, tetratic lattice of merons (with topological charge of −1/2) upon varying the temperature and elastic boundary conditions in [(PbTiO3)16/(SrTiO3)16]8membranes. This topological phase transition is accompanied by a change in chirality, from zero-net chirality (in meronic phase) to net-handedness (in skyrmionic phase). We show how scanning electron diffraction provides a robust measure of the local polarization simultaneously with the strain state at sub-nm resolution, while also directly mapping the chirality of each skyrmion. Using this, we demonstrate strain as a crucial order parameter to drive isotropic-to-anisotropic structural transitions of chiral polar skyrmions to non-chiral merons, validated with X-ray reciprocal space mapping and phase-field simulations.

  2. Abstract Reducing the switching energy of ferroelectric thin films remains an important goal in the pursuit of ultralow-power ferroelectric memory and logic devices. Here, we elucidate the fundamental role of lattice dynamics in ferroelectric switching by studying both freestanding bismuth ferrite (BiFeO 3 ) membranes and films clamped to a substrate. We observe a distinct evolution of the ferroelectric domain pattern, from striped, 71° ferroelastic domains (spacing of ~100 nm) in clamped BiFeO 3 films, to large (10’s of micrometers) 180° domains in freestanding films. By removing the constraints imposed by mechanical clamping from the substrate, we can realize a ~40% reduction of the switching voltage and a consequent ~60% improvement in the switching speed. Our findings highlight the importance of a dynamic clamping process occurring during switching, which impacts strain, ferroelectric, and ferrodistortive order parameters and plays a critical role in setting the energetics and dynamics of ferroelectric switching.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2023
  3. Abstract Polar vortices in oxide superlattices exhibit complex polarization topologies. Using a combination of electron energy loss near-edge structure analysis, crystal field multiplet theory, and first-principles calculations, we probe the electronic structure within such polar vortices in [(PbTiO 3 ) 16 /(SrTiO 3 ) 16 ] superlattices at the atomic scale. The peaks in Ti $$L$$ L -edge spectra shift systematically depending on the position of the Ti 4+ cations within the vortices i.e., the direction and magnitude of the local dipole. First-principles computation of the local projected density of states on the Ti $$3d$$ 3 d orbitals, together with the simulated crystal field multiplet spectra derived from first principles are in good agreement with the experiments.
  4. Abstract

    Double perovskite oxides, with generalized formula A2BB$$^{\prime}$$O6, attract wide interest due to their multiferroic and charge transfer properties. They offer a wide range of potential applications such as spintronics and electrically tunable devices. However, great practical limitations are encountered, since a spontaneous order of the B-site cations is notoriously hard to achieve. In this joint experimental-theoretical work, we focused on the characterization of double perovskites La2TiFeO6and La2VCuO6films grown by pulsed laser deposition and interpretation of the observed B-site disorder and partial charge transfer between the B-site ions. A random structure sampling method was used to show that several phases compete due to their corresponding configurational entropy. In order to capture a representative picture of the most relevant competing microstates in realistic experimental conditions, this search included the potential formation of non-stoichiometric phases as well, which could also be directly related to the observed partial charge transfer. We optimized the information encapsulated in the potential energy landscape, captured via structure sampling, by evaluating both enthalpic and entropic terms. These terms were employed as a metric for the competition of different phases. This approach, applied herein specifically to La2TiFeO6, highlights the presence of highly entropic phases above the ground state whichmore »can explain the disorder observed frequently in the broader class of double perovskite oxides.

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