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  1. As a real-space technique, atomic-resolution STEM imaging contains both amplitude and geometric phase information about structural order in materials, with the latter encoding important information about local variations and heterogeneities present in crystalline lattices. Such phase information can be extracted using geometric phase analysis (GPA), a method which has generally focused on spatially mapping elastic strain. Here we demonstrate an alternative phase demodulation technique and its application to reveal complex structural phenomena in correlated quantum materials. As with other methods of image phase analysis, the phase lock-in approach can be implemented to extract detailed information about structural order and disorder, including dislocations and compound defects in crystals. Extending the application of this phase analysis to Fourier components that encode periodic modulations of the crystalline lattice, such as superlattice or secondary frequency peaks, we extract the behavior of multiple distinct order parameters within the same image, yielding insights into not only the crystalline heterogeneity but also subtle emergent order parameters such as antipolar displacements. When applied to atomic-resolution images spanning large (~0.5 × 0.5 μ m 2 ) fields of view, this approach enables vivid visualizations of the spatial interplay between various structural orders in novel materials.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2023
  2. Ferroelectric nanomaterials offer the promise of switchable electronic properties at the surface, with implications for photo- and electrocatalysis. Studies to date on the effect of ferroelectric surfaces in electrocatalysis have been primarily limited to nanoparticle systems where complex interfaces arise. Here, we use MBE-grown epitaxial BaTiO3 thin films with atomically sharp interfaces as model surfaces to demonstrate the effect of ferroelectric polarization on the electronic structure, intermediate binding energy, and electrochemical activity toward the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER). Surface spectroscopy and ab initio DFT +U calculations of the well-defined (001) surfaces indicate that an upward polarized surface reduces the work function relative to downward polarization and leads to a smaller HER barrier, in agreement with the higher activity observed experimentally. Employing ferroelectric polarization to create multiple adsorbate interactions over a single electrocatalytic surface, as demonstrated in this work, may offer new opportunities for nanoscale catalysis design beyond traditional descriptors.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 2, 2023
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  4. Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2023
  5. The unconventional superconductivity in Sr 2 RuO 4 is infamously susceptible to suppression by small levels of disorder such that it has been most commonly studied in extremely high-purity bulk crystals. Here, we harness local structural and spectroscopic scanning transmission electron microscopy measurements in epitaxial thin films of Sr 2 RuO 4 to disentangle the impact of different types of crystalline disorder on superconductivity. We find that cation off-stoichiometry during growth gives rise to two distinct types of disorder: mixed-phase structural inclusions that accommodate excess ruthenium and ruthenium vacancies when the growth is ruthenium-deficient. Several superconducting films host mixed-phase intergrowths, suggesting this microstructural disorder has relatively little impact on superconductivity. In a non-superconducting film, on the other hand, we measure a high density of ruthenium-vacancies [Formula: see text] with no significant reduction in the crystallinity of the film. The results suggest that ruthenium vacancy disorder, which is hidden to many structural probes, plays an important role in suppressing superconductivity. We discuss the broader implications of our findings to guide the future synthesis of this and other layered systems.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2023
  6. Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 24, 2023
  7. Tomographic spectroscopy reveals how the properties of topological materials can be engineered at interfaces.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 4, 2023
  8. Abstract

    Two-dimensional electron gas or hole gas (2DEG or 2DHG) and their functionalities at artificial heterostructure interfaces have attracted extensive attention in recent years. Many theoretical calculations and recent experimental studies have shown the formation of alternating 2DEG and 2DHG at ferroelectric/insulator interfaces, such as BiFeO3/TbScO3, depending on the different polarization states. However, a direct observation based on the local charge distribution at the BiFeO3/TbScO3interface has yet to be explored. Herein we demonstrate the direct observation of 2DHG and 2DEG at BiFeO3/TbScO3interface using four-dimensional scanning transmission electron microscopy and Bader charge analysis. The results show that the measured charge state of each Fe/O columns at the interface undergoes a significant increase/reduction for the polarization state pointing away/toward the interface, indicating the existence of 2DHG/2DEG. This method opens up a path of directly observing charge at atomic scale and provides new insights into the design of future electronic nanodevices.

  9. Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2023