Materials science breakthrough

In a materials science breakthrough, an international team of researchers led by Xiaoxing Xi, Laura H. Carnell Professor of Physics at the College of Science and Technology, has developed a novel technique to create nanoscale-level oxide interfaces and heterostructures.

The research, according to Xi, has potential electronic, magnetic and superconducting applications—including possibly creating new computing, detector and energy production devices. His team’s findings were published online Monday, Feb. 27, in npj Quantum Materials, an open-access Nature research journal. In their study, Xi and his 16 colleagues from Temple, elsewhere in the United States, Italy and China, describe how they successfully constructed oxides with well-controlled chemical compositions and atomic-layer precision.

The new method is called atomic layer-by-layer laser molecular beam epitaxy (ALL-Laser MBE). It is built upon, and improves on, the combined strengths of the two most successful methods in utilizing oxide interfaces to synthesize new, artificial structures.

“There is a significantly enhanced capability to grow these oxide materials one atomic layer at a time, not just to make existing materials better but to also create materials that don’t exist naturally,” says Xi, whose research was funded by a three-year, $367,000 U.S. Department of Energy grant. “The method pushes current boundaries for growing new functional materials that are theoretically predicted but cannot be made with existing techniques.”

The research represents the culmination of Xi’s work since he came to Temple in 2009 from the Pennsylvania State University, where he was a professor of physics and materials science and engineering. Critical to Xi’s research was a state-of-the-art laser MBE system purchased with start-up funds provided by Temple.

Other Temple Physics Department researchers involved in the study include Qingyu Lei, Maryam Golalikhani, Guozhen Liu, Ravini Chandrasena, Weibing Yang, Alexander Gray and Qiao Qiao, who is associated with both Temple and the Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island; and Bruce Davidson, who also is associated with the CNR-Instituto Officina dei Materiali, TASC National Laboratory in Trieste, Italy. 

Additional collaborators include Darrell Schlom of Cornell University and the Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science in Ithaca, New York; Yimei Zhu of Brookhaven National Laboratory; Elke Arenholz of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California; Andrew Farrar and Dmitri Tenne of Boise State University; Rakesh Singh, of Arizona State University in Tempe; and Minhui Hu and Jiandong Guo of the Beijing National Laboratory for Condensed Matter Physics and Institute of Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

-Bruce Beans