Researchers develop new technique for probing subsurface electronic structure

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Posted January 16, 2014
Researchers develop new technique for probing subsurface electronic structure
From left, Aaron Bostwick, Charles Fadley, Jim Ciston and Alex Gray at the Advanced Light Source’s Beamline 7.0.1. Credit: Roy Kaltschmidt
“The interface is the device,” Nobel laureate Herbert Kroemer famously observed, referring to the remarkable properties to be found at the junctures where layers of different materials meet. In today’s burgeoning world of nanotechnology, the interfaces between layers of metal oxides are becoming increasingly prominent, with applications in such high-tech favorites as spintronics, high-temperature superconductors, ferroelectrics and multiferroics. Realizing the vast potential of these metal oxide interfaces, especially those buried in subsurface layers, will require detailed knowledge of their electronic structure.

A new technique from an international team of researchers working at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source (ALS) promises to deliver the goods. In a study led by Charles Fadley, a physicist who holds joint appointments with Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and the University of California Davis, where he is a Distinguished Professor of Physics, the team combined two well-established techniques for studying electronic structure in crystalline materials into a new technique that is optimized for examining electronic properties at subsurface interfaces. They call this new technique SWARPES, for Standing Wave Angle-Resolved Photoemission Spectroscopy.

“SWARPES allows us for the first time to selectively study buried interfaces with either soft or hard x-rays,” Fadley says. ”

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