Vertically Aligned Nanocomposite Thin Films
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Vertically aligned nanocomposite (VAN) thin films have recently stimulated significant research interest to achieve better material functionality or multifunctionalities. In VAN thin films, both phases grow epitaxially in parallel on given substrates and form a unique nano-checkerboard structure. Multiple strains, including the vertical strain which along the vertical interface and the substrate induced strain which along the film and substrate interface, exist in VAN thin films. The competition of these strains gives a promise to tune the material lattice structure and future more the nanocomposite film physical properties. Those two phases in the VAN thin films are selected based on their growth kinetics, thermodynamic stability and epitaxial growth ability on given substrates. In the present work, we investigated unique epitaxial two-phase VAN (BiFeO3)x:(Sm2O3)1-x and (La0.7Sr0.3MnO3)x:(Mn3O4)1-x thin film systems by pulsed laser deposition. These VAN thin films exhibit a highly ordered vertical columnar structure with good epitaxial quality. The strain of the two phases can be tuned by deposition parameters, e.g. deposition frequency and film composition. Their strain tunability is found to be related directly to the systematic variation of the column widths and domain structures. Their physical properties, such as dielectric loss and ferromagnetisms can be tuned systematically by this variation. The growth morphology, microstructure and material functionalities of VAN thin films can be varied by modifying the phase ratio, substrate orientation or deposition conditions. Systematic study has been done on growing (SrTiO3)0.5:(MgO)0.5 VAN thin films on SrTiO3 and MgO substrates, respectively. The variation of column width demonstrates the substrate induced strain plays another important role in the VAN thin film growth. The VAN thin films also hold promise in achieving porous thin films with ordered nanopores by thermal treatment. We selected (BiFeO3)0.5:(Sm2O3)0.5 VAN thin films as a template and get uniformly distributed bi-layered nanopores. Controllable porosity can be achieved by adjusting the microstructure of VAN (BiFeO3):(Sm2O3) thin films and the annealing parameters. In situ heating experiments within a transmission electron microscope column provide direct observations into the phases transformation, evaporation and structure reconstruction during the annealing. Systematic study in this dissertation demonstrate that the vertically aligned nanocomposite microstructure is a brand new architecture in thin films and an exciting approach that promises tunable material functionalities as well as novel nanostructures.
Bi, Zhenxing (2011). Vertically Aligned Nanocomposite Thin Films. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from