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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 9, 2024
  2. Metamaterials present great potential in the applications of solar cells and nanophotonics, such as super lenses and other meta devices, owing to their superior optical properties. In particular, hyperbolic metamaterials (HMMs) with exceptional optical anisotropy offer improved manipulation of light–matter interactions as well as a divergence in the density of states and thus show enhanced performances in related fields. Recently, the emerging field of oxide–metal vertically aligned nanocomposites (VANs) suggests a new approach to realize HMMs with flexible microstructural modulations. In this work, a new oxide–metal metamaterial system, CeO 2 –Au, has been demonstrated with variable Au phase morphologies from nanoparticle-in-matrix (PIM), nanoantenna-in-matrix, to VAN. The effective morphology tuning through deposition background pressure, and the corresponding highly tunable optical performance of three distinctive morphologies, were systematically explored and analyzed. A hyperbolic dispersion at high wavelength has been confirmed in the nano-antenna CeO 2 –Au thin film, proving this system as a promising candidate for HMM applications. More interestingly, a new and abnormal in-plane epitaxy of Au nanopillars following the large mismatched CeO 2 matrix instead of the well-matched SrTiO 3 substrate, was discovered. Additionally, the tilting angle of Au nanopillars, α , has been found to be a quantitative measure of the balance between kinetics and thermodynamics during the depositions of VANs. All these findings provide valuable information in the understanding of the VAN formation mechanisms and related morphology tuning. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 31, 2024
  3. In an epoch dominated by escalating concerns over climate change and looming energy crises, the imperative to design highly efficient catalysts that can facilitate the sequestration and transformation of carbon dioxide (CO2) into beneficial chemicals is paramount. This research presents the successful synthesis of nanofiber catalysts, incorporating monometallic nickel (Ni) and cobalt (Co) and their bimetallic blend, NiCo, via a facile electrospinning technique, with precise control over the Ni/Co molar ratios. Application of an array of advanced analytical methods, including SEM, TGA–DSC, FTIR-ATR, XRD, Raman, XRF, and ICP-MS, validated the effective integration and homogeneous distribution of active Ni/Co catalysts within the nanofibers. The catalytic performance of these mono- and bimetallic Ni/Co nanofiber catalysts was systematically examined under ambient pressure conditions for CO2 hydrogenation reactions. The bimetallic NiCo nanofiber catalysts, specifically with a Ni/Co molar ratio of 1:2, and thermally treated at 1050 °C, demonstrated a high CO selectivity (98.5%) and a marked increase in CO2 conversion rate—up to 16.7 times that of monometallic Ni nanofiber catalyst and 10.8 times that of the monometallic Co nanofiber catalyst. This significant enhancement in catalytic performance is attributed to the improved accessibility of active sites, minimized particle size, and the strong Ni–Co–C interactions within these nanofiber structures. These nanofiber catalysts offer a unique model system that illuminates the fundamental aspects of supported catalysis and accentuates its crucial role in addressing pressing environmental challenges. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2024
  4. Oxide-metal-based hybrid materials have gained great research interest in recent years owing to their potential for multifunctionality, property coupling, and tunability. Specifically, oxide-metal hybrid materials in a vertically aligned nanocomposite (VAN) form could produce pronounced anisotropic physical properties, e.g. , hyperbolic optical properties. Herein, self-assembled HfO 2 -Au nanocomposites with ultra-fine vertically aligned Au nanopillars (as fine as 3 nm in diameter) embedded in a HfO 2 matrix were fabricated using a one-step self-assembly process. The film crystallinity and pillar uniformity can be obviously improved by adding an ultra-thin TiN-Au buffer layer during the growth. The HfO 2 -Au hybrid VAN films show an obvious plasmonic resonance at 480 nm, which is much lower than the typical plasmonic resonance wavelength of Au nanostructures, and is attributed to the well-aligned ultra-fine Au nanopillars. Coupled with the broad hyperbolic dispersion ranging from 1050 nm to 1800 nm in wavelength, and unique dielectric HfO 2 , this nanoscale hybrid plasmonic metamaterial presents strong potential for the design of future integrated optical and electronic switching devices. 
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  5. Multiferroic materials are an interesting functional material family combining two ferroic orderings, e.g. , ferroelectric and ferromagnetic orderings, or ferroelectric and antiferromagnetic orderings, and find various device applications, such as spintronics, multiferroic tunnel junctions, etc. Coupling multiferroic materials with plasmonic nanostructures offers great potential for optical-based switching in these devices. Here, we report a novel nanocomposite system consisting of layered Bi 1.25 AlMnO 3.25 (BAMO) as a multiferroic matrix and well dispersed plasmonic Au nanoparticles (NPs) and demonstrate that the Au nanoparticle morphology and the nanocomposite properties can be effectively tuned. Specifically, the Au particle size can be tuned from 6.82 nm to 31.59 nm and the 6.82 nm one presents the optimum ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties and plasmonic properties. Besides the room temperature multiferroic properties, the BAMO-Au nanocomposite system presents other unique functionalities including localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR), hyperbolicity in the visible region, and magneto-optical coupling, which can all be effectively tailored through morphology tuning. This study demonstrates the feasibility of coupling single phase multiferroic oxides with plasmonic metals for complex nanocomposite designs towards optically switchable spintronics and other memory devices. 
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  6. Abstract

    Multiferroic materials have generated great interest due to their potential as functional device materials. Nanocomposites have been increasingly used to design and generate new functionalities by pairing dissimilar ferroic materials, though the combination often introduces new complexity and challenges unforeseeable in single-phase counterparts. The recently developed approaches to fabricate 3D super-nanocomposites (3D‐sNC) open new avenues to control and enhance functional properties. In this work, we develop a new 3D‐sNC with CoFe2O4(CFO) short nanopillar arrays embedded in BaTiO3(BTO) film matrix via microstructure engineering by alternatively depositing BTO:CFO vertically-aligned nanocomposite layers and single-phase BTO layers. This microstructure engineering method allows encapsulating the relative conducting CFO phase by the insulating BTO phase, which suppress the leakage current and enhance the polarization. Our results demonstrate that microstructure engineering in 3D‐sNC offers a new bottom–up method of fabricating advanced nanostructures with a wide range of possible configurations for applications where the functional properties need to be systematically modified.

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