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  1. Strain is powerful for discovery and manipulation of new phases of matter; however, elastic strains accessible to epitaxial films and bulk crystals are typically limited to small ( < 2 %), uniform, and often discrete values. This Perspective highlights emerging directions for strain and strain gradient engineering in free-standing single-crystalline membranes of quantum materials. Membranes enable large ( ∼ 10 %), continuously tunable strains and strain gradients via bending and rippling. Moreover, strain gradients break inversion symmetry to activate polar distortions, ferroelectricity, chiral spin textures, superconductivity, and topological states. Recent advances in membrane synthesis by remote epitaxy and sacrificial etch layers enable extreme strains in transition metal oxides, intermetallics, and Heusler compounds, expanding beyond the natively van der Waals (vdW) materials like graphene. We highlight emerging opportunities and challenges for strain and strain gradient engineering in membranes of non-vdW materials. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 24, 2024
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2024
  3. Remote epitaxy is promising for the synthesis of lattice-mismatched materials, exfoliation of membranes, and reuse of expensive substrates. However, clear experimental evidence of a remote mechanism remains elusive. Alternative mechanisms such as pinhole-seeded epitaxy or van der Waals epitaxy can often explain the resulting films. Here, we show that growth of the Heusler compound GdPtSb on clean graphene/sapphire produces a 30° rotated (R30) superstructure that cannot be explained by pinhole epitaxy. With decreasing temperature, the fraction of this R30 domain increases, compared to the direct epitaxial R0 domain, which can be explained by a competition between remote versus pinhole epitaxy. Careful graphene/substrate annealing and consideration of the relative lattice mismatches are required to obtain epitaxy to the underlying substrate across a series of other Heusler films, including LaPtSb and GdAuGe. The R30 superstructure provides a possible experimental fingerprint of remote epitaxy, since it is inconsistent with the leading alternative mechanisms. 
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  4. Abstract

    Remote epitaxy is a promising approach for synthesizing exfoliatable crystalline membranes and enabling epitaxy of materials with large lattice mismatch. However, the atomic scale mechanisms for remote epitaxy remain unclear. Here we experimentally demonstrate that GaSb films grow on graphene-terminated GaSb (001) via a seeded lateral epitaxy mechanism, in which pinhole defects in the graphene serve as selective nucleation sites, followed by lateral epitaxy and coalescence into a continuous film. Remote interactions are not necessary in order to explain the growth. Importantly, the small size of the pinholes permits exfoliation of continuous, free-standing GaSb membranes. Due to the chemical similarity between GaSb and other III-V materials, we anticipate this mechanism to apply more generally to other materials. By combining molecular beam epitaxy with in-situ electron diffraction and photoemission, plus ex-situ atomic force microscopy and Raman spectroscopy, we track the graphene defect generation and GaSb growth evolution a few monolayers at a time. Our results show that the controlled introduction of nanoscale openings in graphene provides an alternative route towards tuning the growth and properties of 3D epitaxial films and membranes on 2D material masks.

     
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  5. Abstract

    Single-crystalline membranes of functional materials enable the tuning of properties via extreme strain states; however, conventional routes for producing membranes require the use of sacrificial layers and chemical etchants, which can both damage the membrane and limit the ability to make them ultrathin. Here we demonstrate the epitaxial growth of the cubic Heusler compound GdPtSb on graphene-terminated Al2O3substrates. Despite the presence of the graphene interlayer, the Heusler films have epitaxial registry to the underlying sapphire, as revealed by x-ray diffraction, reflection high energy electron diffraction, and transmission electron microscopy. The weak Van der Waals interactions of graphene enable mechanical exfoliation to yield free-standing GdPtSb membranes, which form ripples when transferred to a flexible polymer handle. Whereas unstrained GdPtSb is antiferromagnetic, measurements on rippled membranes show a spontaneous magnetic moment at room temperature, with a saturation magnetization of 5.2 bohr magneton per Gd. First-principles calculations show that the coupling to homogeneous strain is too small to induce ferromagnetism, suggesting a dominant role for strain gradients. Our membranes provide a novel platform for tuning the magnetic properties of intermetallic compounds via strain (piezomagnetism and magnetostriction) and strain gradients (flexomagnetism).

     
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    Single-crystalline membranes of functional materials enable the tuning of properties via extreme strain states; however, conventional routes for producing membranes require the use of sacrificial layers and chemical etchants, which can both damage and limit the ability to make membranes ultrathin. Here we demonstrate the epitaxial growth of cubic and hexagonal Heusler compounds on graphene-terminated Al$_2$O$_3$ substrates. The weak Van der Waals interactions of graphene enable the mechanical exfoliation of LaPtSb and GdPtSb films to yield free-standing membranes. Despite the presence of the graphene interlayer, the Heusler films have epitaxial registry to the underlying sapphire, as revealed by x-ray diffraction, reflection high energy electron diffraction, and transmission electron microscopy. Some films show a uniform in-plane rotation of several degrees with respect to the substrate, which we attribute to a combination of lattice mismatch and weakened Heusler film / sapphire substrate interactions through graphene. The residual resistivity of semi free-standing films on graphene-terminated substrates is similar to the residual resistivity of films grown by direct epitaxy. Our graphene-mediated approach provides a promising platform for tuning the magnetic, topological, and multiferroic properties of Heuslers in a clean, single-crystalline membrane system. 
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