Strain induced modulation of the correlated transport in epitaxial Sm0.5Nd0.5NiO3 thin films.

Research paper by L L Zhang, H J HJ Gardner, X G XG Chen, V R VR Singh, X X Hong

Indexed on: 18 Mar '15Published on: 18 Mar '15Published in: Journal of physics. Condensed matter : an Institute of Physics journal


We report a study of the effect of epitaxial strain on the correlated transport properties of 2-40 nm Sm0.5Nd0.5NiO3 (SNNO) films grown on different substrates. The metal-insulator transition (MIT) temperature T(MI) of the SNNO films increases with increasing tensile strain. While films on (0 0 1) LaAlO3 and (1 1 0) NdGaO3 substrates exhibit a sharp MIT and thermal hysteresis in the cooling-heating cycle, signaling a first-order transition, films on (0 0 1) SrTiO3 show a broad, second-order MIT. Hall effect measurements reveal hole-type charge carriers and thermally activated temperature dependence of the carrier density below T(MI). The corresponding activation energy is ∼80 meV for films on LaAlO3 and NdGaO3, and is suppressed to 25 meV for films on SrTiO3. The carrier mobility in the metallic state and variable range hopping (VRH) transport at a low temperature point significantly enhanced electron localization in SNNO on STO, which we believe is not simply driven by extrinsic effects such as oxygen vacancies, but rather is an intrinsic characteristic for films subject to tensile strain due to the elongated Ni-O bond and hence enhanced dynamic Jahn-Teller distortion. In ultrathin films above the electrical dead layer thickness (2-3 nm), we observe a more than 100 K increase of T(MI) for films on LaAlO3, which has been correlated with a crossover from 3D to 2D transport as revealed from VRH. We attribute the distinct transport characteristics to strain induced modulation of various energy scales associated with the Ni-O-Ni bond angle and Ni-O bond length, which collectively determine the delocalization bandwidth of the system.