Current Applied Physics, Vol.18, No.12, 1577-1582, 2018
Non-stoichiometry-induced metal-to-insulator transition in nickelate thin films grown by pulsed laser deposition
While controlling the cation contents in perovskite rare-earth nickelate thin films, a metal-to-insulator phase transition is reported. Systematic control of cation stoichiometry has been achieved by manipulating the irradiation of excimer laser in pulsed laser deposition. Two rare-earth nickelate bilayer thin-film heterostructures with the controlled cation stoichiometry (i.e. stoichiometric and Ni-excessive) have been fabricated. It is found that the Ni-excessive nickelate film is structurally less dense than the stoichiometric film, albeit both of them are epitaxial and coherent with respect to the underlying substrate. More interestingly, as a temperature decreases, a metal-to-insulator transition is only observed in the Ni-excessive nickelate films, which can be associated with the enhanced disproportionation of the Ni charge valence. Based on our theoretical results, possible origins (e.g. anti-site defects) of the low-temperature insulating state are discussed with the need of future work for deeper understanding. Our work can be utilized to realize unusual physical phenomena (e.g. metal-to-insulator phase transitions) in complex oxide films by manipulating the chemical stoichiometry in pulsed laser deposition.