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Creating Emergent Interfacial Phenomena

One of the compelling advantages of engineering materials in nanoscale thin films is the ability to create materials in structures and configurations that cannot be stabilized in macroscopic or freestanding samples. A classic example of this that when films are grown on top of a substrate with a different lattice spacing, it generates strain that modifies bond lengths and crystal symmetries, which in turn can result in dramatic effects on the electronic and magnetic properties of the material.

Another common thin film engineering approach to tune material properties is to create heterostructures, or multilayer films composed of two or more chemically dissimilar layers separated by atomically sharp interfaces. The interfaces in such materials are two-dimensional objects that break inversion symmetry, often resulting in properties entirely unique from the materials on either side of it. We refer to these unique interfacial properties as “emergent”. Examples that have already been realized include, metallic interfaces between two insulators and magnetic interfaces between two non-magnets.

Our group works to create new interfaces by carefully designing the chemistry and symmetry of the two materials that generate the interface, then synthesizing these heterostructures using a variety of thin film deposition techniques. In this way, we hope to generate previously unseen emergent phenomena that can be utilized for next generation electronic, spintronic, and magnetoelectric devices.