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  1. Nanocomposite thin film materials present great opportunities in coupling materials and functionalities in unique nanostructures including nanoparticles-in-matrix, vertically aligned nanocomposites (VANs), and nanolayers. Interestingly the nanocomposites processed through a non-equilibrium processing method, e.g., pulsed laser deposition (PLD), often possess unique metastable phases and microstructures that could not achieve using equilibrium techniques, and thus lead to novel physical properties. In this work, a unique three-phase system composed of BaTiO3 (BTO), with two immiscible metals, Au and Fe, is demonstrated. By adjusting the deposition laser frequency from 2 Hz to 10 Hz, the phase and morphology of Au and Fe nanoparticles in BTO matrix vary from separated Au and Fe nanoparticles to well-mixed Au-Fe alloy pillars. This is attributed to the non-equilibrium process of PLD and the limited diffusion under high laser frequency (e.g., 10 Hz). The magnetic and optical properties are effectively tuned based on the morphology variation. This work demonstrates the stabilization of non-equilibrium alloy structures in the VAN form and allows for the exploration of new non-equilibrium materials systems and their properties that could not be easily achieved through traditional equilibrium methods. 
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  2. Transition metal nitrides such as titanium nitride (TiN) possess exceptional mechanical-, chemical-, and thermal-stability and have been utilized in a wide variety of applications ranging from super-hard, corrosion-resistive, and decorative coatings to nanoscale diffusion barriers in semiconductor devices. Despite the ongoing interest in these robust materials, there have been limited reports focused on engineering high-aspect ratio TiN-based nanocomposites with anisotropic magnetic and optical properties. To this end, we explored TiN–Fe thin films with self-assembled vertical structures integrated on Si substrates. We showed that the key physical properties of the individual components (e.g., ferromagnetism from Fe) are preserved, that vertical nanostructures promote anisotropic behavior, and interactions between TiN and Fe enable a special magneto-optical response. This TiN–Fe nanocomposite system presents a new group of complex multifunctional hybrid materials that can be integrated on Si for future Si-based memory, optical, and biocompatible devices. 
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  3. Two-dimensional (2D) materials with robust ferromagnetic behavior have attracted great interest because of their potential applications in next-generation nanoelectronic devices. Aside from graphene and transition metal dichalcogenides, Bi-based layered oxide materials are a group of prospective candidates due to their superior room-temperature multiferroic response. Here, an ultrathin Bi 3 Fe 2 Mn 2 O 10+ δ layered supercell (BFMO322 LS) structure was deposited on an LaAlO 3 (LAO) (001) substrate using pulsed laser deposition. Microstructural analysis suggests that a layered supercell (LS) structure consisting of two-layer-thick Bi–O slabs and two-layer-thick Mn/Fe–O octahedra slabs was formed on top of the pseudo-perovskite interlayer (IL). A robust saturation magnetization value of 129 and 96 emu cm −3 is achieved in a 12.3 nm thick film in the in-plane (IP) and out-of-plane (OP) directions, respectively. The ferromagnetism, dielectric permittivity, and optical bandgap of the ultrathin BFMO films can be effectively tuned by thickness and morphology variation. In addition, the anisotropy of all ultrathin BFMO films switches from OP dominating to IP dominating as the thickness increases. This study demonstrates the ultrathin BFMO film with tunable multifunctionalities as a promising candidate for novel integrated spintronic devices. 
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  5. Combinatorial growth is capable of creating a compositional gradient for thin film materials and thus has been adopted to explore composition variation mostly for metallic alloy thin films and some dopant concentrations for ceramic thin films. This study uses a combinatorial pulsed laser deposition method to successfully fabricate two‐phase oxide–oxide vertically aligned nanocomposite (VAN) thin films of La0.7Sr0.3MnO3(LSMO)‐NiO with variable composition across the film area. The LSMO‐NiO compositional gradient across the film alters the two‐phase morphology of the VAN through varying nanopillar size and density. Additionally, the magnetic anisotropy and magnetoresistance properties of the nanocomposite thin films increase with increasing NiO composition. This demonstration of a combinatorial method for VAN growth can increase the efficiency of nanocomposite thin film research by allowing all possible compositions of thin film materials to be explored in a single deposition.

     
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  8. Ferromagnetic nanostructures with strong anisotropic properties are highly desired for their potential integration into spintronic devices. Several anisotropic candidates, such as CoFeB and Fe–Pt, have been previously proposed, but many of them have limitations such as patterning issues or thickness restrictions. In this work, Co–BaZrO 3 (Co–BZO) vertically aligned nanocomposite (VAN) films with tunable magnetic anisotropy and coercive field strength have been demonstrated to address this need. Such tunable magnetic properties are achieved through tuning the thickness of the Co–BZO VAN structures and the aspect ratio of the Co nanostructures, which can be easily integrated into spintronic devices. As a demonstration, we have integrated the Co–BZO VAN nanostructure into tunnel junction devices, which demonstrated resistive switching alluding to Co–BZO's immense potential for future spintronic devices. 
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