Strain Effects in Epitaxial VO2 Thin Films on Columnar Buffer-Layer TiO2/Al2O3 Virtual Substrates
Epitaxial VO 2 /TiO 2 thin film heterostructures were grown on (100) (m-cut) Al 2 O 3 substrates via pulsed laser deposition. We have demonstrated the ability to reduce the semiconductor–metal transition (SMT) temperature of VO 2 to ∼44 °C while retaining a 4 order of magnitude SMT using the TiO 2 buffer layer. A combination of electrical transport and X-ray diffraction reciprocal space mapping studies help examine the specific strain states of VO 2 /TiO 2 /Al 2 O 3 heterostructures as a function of TiO 2 film growth temperatures. Atomic force microscopy and transmission electron microscopy analyses show that the columnar microstructure present in TiO 2 buffer films is responsible for the partially strained VO 2 film behavior and subsequently favorable transport characteristics with a lower SMT temperature. Such findings are of crucial importance for both the technological implementation of the VO 2 system, where reduction of its SMT temperature is widely sought, as well as the broader complex oxide community, where greater understanding of the evolution of microstructure, strain, and functional properties is a high priority. Graphic Abstract ACS Electronic Supporting Info
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