The quest for atomic perfection in semiconductor devices

A research team, including scientists from MAX IV have reported in Nature Communications that the quest for atomic perfection in semiconductor devices was based on an oversimplified model.

Semiconductors are the fundamental building blocks of all modern electronics. Improvements to these materials could affect everything from the clock on our microwave to supercomputers used to crunch big data. The search to make them better involves looking at atomic level changes in semiconductor materials in order to understand how they could be improved, and even made perfect.

The problem with semiconductors and the way they are manufactured is that they need to be processed with metal contacts and thin insulating layers, and the interface between the semiconductor and these contacts contains a lot of defects which hamper device performance. If scientists can find a way to reduce the defects or eliminate them completely, then semiconductors could conceivably become faster and smaller. The problem is, these defects occur on the atomic scale and are very difficult to measure.

Scientists working at Max Lab, the predecessor to the newly built MAX IV, together with physicists from Lund University used the SPECIES beamline to investigate a common semiconductor synthesis method. Hafnium dioxide was deposited on the surface of indium arsenide and monitored using ambient pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (APXPS). The scientists were able to monitor the very first atomic layer that was deposited, and monitor the chemical reactions that were occurring as the process was underway.

>Read more on the MAX IV Laboratory website

X-ray imaging of gigahertz ferroelectric domain dynamics

A team of researchers has made an important advance in broadening our understanding of light-induced mesoscale dynamics using the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne National Laboratory. Time-resolved x-ray diffraction microscopy, aided by a newly developed dynamical phase-field method (DPFM), revealed how lattice waves can be excited by light pulses and the resulting local structural changes among mesoscopic domains in ferroelectrics, a widely utilized material for sensors, nanoscale positioners, and information storage devices.

Light interaction with matter offers a new way of controlling material properties by harnessing energy transport and conversion in functional materials without contact on ultrafast time scales. However, the desired dynamical control is complicated by the inhomogeneous response of real materials. The ultrafast dynamics depend not only on the intrinsic properties of the compound but also, strongly, on mesoscale structures such as surfaces, domains, interfaces, and defects that govern the coupling between various degrees of freedom.

>Read more on the Advanced Photon Source website

Figure: Schematic illustration of spatially-resolved pump-probe experiment and domain configuration of a BaTiO3 single crystal sample. The inset shows a unit cell of BaTiO3.

The Molecular Scale Structure of Electrolyte-Metal Oxide Interface

Li-ion batteries (LIBs) are key components of portable electronic devices, as well as in electric vehicles, military and medical equipment, backup power supplies, and even grid storage. However, the energy storage capacity and rate capability of current LIBs is still too low to meet the increasing demand of key markets. For the latter, the properties of the electrolyte-electrode interface play a decisive role.

From a more general point of view, interfaces, or surfaces, are the outer boundary of any condensed matter. Due to the resulting symmetry breaking, the arrangement of atoms or molecules at the interface often varies significantly from that in the bulk. Studies of the molecular scale structural properties of liquids at interfaces are intriguing, as these give insights into the fundamental molecule–molecule and molecule–substrate interactions. Investigations have included layering of ionic liquids [1], layering of metallic [2] and non-metallic liquids [3], and the (potential-dependent) structure of water adsorbed on solid surfaces [4]. However, basic insights into how a non-aqueous electrolyte–salt solution organizes at a solid interface, in particular from experiments, is still missing [5]. In many technological applications, the atomic scale properties of interfaces govern the functionality of the system. A prominent example is the importance of the structure and molecular arrangement of the liquid at the functional solid–liquid interface in batteries. More specifi­cally, in LIBs, the arrangement of the electrolyte molecules directly at the electrode interface, and the electric double layer (EDL) formation are expected to govern the interfacial ion transport during charge/discharge, as well as affect the origin and properties of the solid electrolyte interphase (SEI).

>Read more on the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource website

Image: (a) Fresnel-normalized XRR (symbols) of the sapphire/LiPF6:EC:DMC and corresponding model fits (lines). (b) Fit-derived electron density profiles. (c) Comparison of the XRR- and MD-derived (blue) density profiles. The MD-derived profile is smeared by the XRR-derived roughness. All curves are spaced vertically for clarity. (d) Periodicity at the solid/liquid interface vs. LiPF6 concentration. (e) Normalized correlation lengths. (f) Schematic illustration of the proposed origin induced increased layer spacing with increasing salt-concentration.

Ubiquitous formation of type-I and type-II bulk Dirac cones

… and topological surface states from a single orbital manifold in transition-metal dichalcogenides

Transition-metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) are renowned for their rich and varied properties. They range from metals and superconductorsto strongly spin-orbit-coupled semiconductors and charge-density-wave systems with their single-layer variants one of the most prominent current examples of two-dimensional materials beyond graphene.Their varied ground states largely depend on the transition metal d-electron-derived electronic states, on which the vast majority of attention has been concentrated to date.

>Read more on the Elettra website.

Image: Chalcogen-derived topological ladder in PdTe2.(a) Orbitally-resolved bulk electronic structure of PdTe2, indicating dominantly chalcogen-derived orbital character for the states in the vicinity of the Fermi level. (b) The measured out-of-plane dispersion together with the calculated band structure. Measured (c) and calculated (d) in-plane dispersion. (e,f) Spin-resolved energy distribution curves along the lines shown in (c).

Maximal Rashba-like spin splitting via kinetic-energy-coupled inversion-symmetry breaking

Research collaboration led by Professor Philip King from University of St. Andrews, and comprising the researchers from Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids in Dresden, Institute for Theoretical Physics of the University of Heidelberg and researchers from I05 beamline at Diamond Light Source and APE beamline at Elettra, described a new route to maximise the spin-splitting of surface states.
The electronic properties of surfaces are often different from those of the bulk. In particular, the intrinsically broken symmetries of the surface compared with the bulk of the material allow for appearance of the new electronic surface states. For the systems in which spin-orbit interaction is strong, a non-negligible separation of these states according to their spin takes place. The spin splitting of surface- or interface-localized two-dimensional electron gases is characterized by a locking of the electron spin perpendicular to its momentum.

Read more on the Elettra website.

(a) Bulk and surface Fermi surfaces of PtCoO2 measured by ARPES; (b) Expected spin texture of the surface states; (c) Spin-resolved ARPES measurements of an in-plane spin polarization (〈Sy〉) of the Fermi surface for the cut along kx.