Strain Control of Oxygen Vacancies in Epitaxial Strontium Cobaltite Films
by Ho Nyung Lee, et al.
The ability to manipulate oxygen anion defects rather than metal cations in complex oxides can facilitate creating new functionalities critical for emerging energy and device technologies. However, the difficulty in activating oxygen at reduced temperatures hinders the deliberate control of important defects, oxygen vacancies. Here, strontium cobaltite (SrCoOx ) is used to demonstrate that epitaxial strain is a powerful tool for manipulating the oxygen vacancy concentration even under highly oxidizing environments and at annealing temperatures as low as 300°C. By applying a small biaxial tensile strain (2%), the oxygen activation energy barrier decreases by ≈30%, resulting in a tunable oxygen deficient steady-state under conditions that would normally fully oxidize unstrained cobaltite. These strain induced changes in oxygen stoichiometry drive the cobaltite from a ferromagnetic metal towards an antiferromagnetic insulator. The ability to decouple the oxygen vacancy concentration from its typical dependence on the operational environment is useful for effectively designing oxides materials with a specific oxygen stoichiometry.