Title: Scanning probe microscopy investigation of complex-oxide heterostructure
Advances in the growth of precisely tailored complex-oxide heterostructures have led to new emergent behavior and associated discoveries. One of the most successful examples consists of an ultrathin layer of LaAlO3 (LAO) deposited on TiO2-terminated SrTiO3 (STO), where a high mobility quasi-two dimensional electron liquid (2DEL) is formed at the interface. Such 2DEL demonstrates a variety of novel properties, including field tunable metal-insulator transition, superconducting, strong spin-orbit coupling, magnetic and ferroelectric like behavior. Particularly, for 3-unit-cell (3 u.c.) LAO/STO heterostructures, it was demonstrated that conductive atomic force microscope (c-AFM) tip can be used to “write” or “erase” nanoscale conducting channels at the interface, making LAO/STO a highly flexible platform to fabricate novel nanoelectronics. This thesis is focused on scanning probe microscopy studies of LAO/STO properties. We investigate the mechanism of c-AFM lithography over 3 u.c. LAO/STO in controlled ambient conditions by using a vacuum AFM, and find the water molecules dissociated on the LAO surface play a critical role during the c-AFM lithography process. We also perform electro-mechanical response measurements over top-gated LAO/STO devices. Simultaneous piezoresponse force microscopy (PFM) and capacitance measurements reveal a correlation between LAO lattice distortion and interfacial carrier density, which not only suggests that PFM could serve as a powerful tool to mapping the carrier density at the interface but also provides insight into previously reported frequency dependence of capacitance enhancement of top-gated LAO/STO structures. To study magnetism at the LAO/STO interface, magnetic force microscopy (MFM) and magnetoelectric force microscopy (MeFM) are carried out to search for magnetic signatures that depend on the carrier density at the interface. Results demonstrate an electronically-controlled ferromagnetic phase on top-gated LAO/STO heterostructures at room temperature. A follow-up study shows that electronically-controlled magnetic signatures are observed only within a LAO thickness window from 8 u.c. to 30 u.c. We also have developed a cryogen-free low-temperature AFM based on a commercial vacuum AFM. The modified system operates under high vacuum 10 6 Torr and the base temperature is ~10 K. This low temperature AFM will be used in future experiments.