Photoemission studies of thin films grown by pulsed laser deposition: epitaxial strain effects on the electronic structure of high temperature superconductors
In this thesis I report on the unique novel possibilities offered by combining pulsed laser deposition (PLD) film growth of high temperature superconductors with angle integrated and angle resolved photoemission spectroscopy (PES and ARPES). The originality of the procedure rests on the in situ preparation and transfer of samples, hence by-passing the usual cumbersome cleaving or scraping practices to obtain high quality surfaces suitable for photoemission studies. Photoemission spectroscopy is one of the major experimental techniques to analyze the electronic structure that holds the key to understanding the properties of the high Tc cuprates (copper oxides) for which a complete microscopic theory still needs to materialize. In chapter 1, I introduce these complex copper oxide materials. The vast majority of ARPES measurements on the cuprate superconductors have so far been limited to the easily cleavable Bi2Sr2CaCu2O8+x (BSCCO-2212) single crystals. In chapter 2, I present the principle of an ARPES measurement, and show as an example (obtained in the "traditional way" of cleaving single crystals) a crossover in the electronic response at a special temperature T+>Tc in overdoped samples. In chapter 3, our unique laser ablation set-up, built on site at the Wisconsin Synchrotron Radiation Center (SRC), is introduced. This is followed by reports on film characterization such as transport, crystal and surface properties which enables the optimization of growth parameters. From here on to the end of the thesis, we show that instead of being a competing technique to cleaving samples, in situ growth of films appears to be a complementary one. In particular, our results show that preparing cuprates which contain oxygen chains, like Re-Ba2Cu3O6+x (RBCO-123; R=Y, Nd), for the surface sensitive ARPES measurements is very difficult due to a material intrinsic loss of oxygen near the surface. This, in turn, curbs the photoemission signal near the chemical potential due to the loss of superficial conductivity (chapter 3). Among the cuprates studied, La2-xSrxCuO4 (LSCO) and Bi2Sr2CaCu2O8+x films, however, both exhibit a sharp Fermi step in angle integrated photoemission spectra, indicating a conducting behavior at the surface. Moreover, thanks to using film samples, we were able to study ultra thin cuprates, down to about 1 unit cell (UC), and we were able to induce epitaxial strain in the samples which can remarkably enhance superconductivity. In chapter 4, combining core level, angle integrated valence band photoemission, and x-ray diffraction, we demonstrate that a structural phase transition occurs in the early growth of BSCCO-2212 films on SrTiO3 (STO) substrates, transforming the precursor Bi6O7 natural reactive buffer layer into the BSCCO-2212 structure. This is qualitatively different from the initial growth of YBCO-123 characterized by nucleation of well separated islands. Chapter 5 then presents the main success of our method: the first ever ARPES data on the low energy electronic structure of any high Tc superconductor under strain. In particular, we confirm that the Fermi surface (FS) of LSCO evolves with doping, but changes even more significantly with strain. More specifically, the FS becomes electron-like for in-plane compressed samples (for all doping values x studied, 0.1<x<0.2) whereas the FS of non-strained samples are hole-like (except for doping values exceeding x≈0.22). This result is very surprising since the associated reduction of the density of states near the Fermi level (due to the vanishing of the saddle point) does, according to many existing models, not favor the increase of Tc observed in our films. Our data indicate in particular that the van-Hove singularity is not crucial to produce high critical temperatures, and thus that carriers from all over the Fermi surface contribute to superconductivity, since Tc-enhancing compressive strain transfers carriers from the so-called "hot spots" to the "cold spots". We briefly discuss some implications of our analysis on emerging microscopic models. Chapter 6 summarizes the main achievements and discusses future possibilities of the new procedure.