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Concentric core-shell tracks and spectroscopic properties of SrTiO3 under intense electronic excitation

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Nano Today
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A deeper understanding of the intrinsic link between the irradiation-induced microstructures and the corresponding spectroscopic properties is becoming increasingly attractive for the research fields of materials science, physics, and information technology. In this work, the structural damage response, spectroscopic features, and associated physical mechanisms of SrTiO3 single crystals under swift heavy ion irradiation were comparatively analyzed using a combination of experimental and theoretical approaches. Corresponding to 0.11–5.00 MeV/u ion irradiation with electronic energy loss ranging from 4.0 to 29.3 keV/nm, the inelastic thermal spike calculations combined with molecular dynamics simulations are compared with the experimental observations, revealing the track fine structures (individual spherical defects with a disordered region, and discontinuous and continuous tracks consisting of an amorphous core and a disordered outer shell) and demonstrating the dominant effects of the deposition energy and lattice temperature on track damage formation and evolution; thus, two essential thresholds for defect formation of ∼0.60 eV/atom and amorphous region formation of ∼1.81 eV/atom were identified to better describe the concentric core-shell track structure. The enhanced nanohillock formation in the surface region is attributed to the combined action of kinetic and potential energy depositions, and the fluence dependence in regulating the hillock dimensions is also presented. The measured refractive index profiles along different crystal axes further indicate the anisotropy of irradiation-induced lattice expansion. With increasing ion fluence and damage level, the intrinsic bandgap gradually decreased, and the concentration of additional radiative recombination centers (1.81 eV, 2.31 eV, and 2.42 eV) accordingly increased in the SrTiO3 crystal, providing the possibility of regulating related defects to achieve tunable/selective photon emission for more critical technological applications.