Properties of La2-xSrxCuO4 under epitaxial strain: photoemission on ultra thin films grown by pulsed laser deposition
The subject of this thesis is the growth and analysis of high temperature superconductor (HTSC) films and the study of their electronic structure and properties. In particular, the effect of epitaxial strain is investigated, predominantly by means of in-situ angle resolved photoemission spectroscopy (ARPES), as well as X-ray diffraction, resistivity and susceptibility measurements. In order to achieve that goal we have developed a unique experimental set-up at the Synchrotron Radiation Center (University of Wisconsin), consisting in a dedicated pulsed laser deposition system, which enables us to grow thin films with excellent surface quality. Our sample transfer procedures assure that this surface quality is not affected on the way to the ARPES analyzer, which is connected to a beamline. We have built a similar film growth system at the EPFL with the aim to connect it to the SCIENTA analyzer at the IPN and to an analyzer on a beamline at the SLS in Villigen. For the first time we were able to perform ARPES measurements on in-situ grown films of HTSC. Previously to our work all the ARPES measurements were carried out on cleaved or scraped samples, predominantly single crystals of Bi2Sr2CaCu2O8 compounds. Thin films offer the possibility to study the effect of epitaxial strain induced through lattice mismatch between the film and its substrate. Compressive strain in the CuO2 plane has been known to enhance the critical temperature (TC) up to 50%, therefore we expected to see a signature of strain in the electronic dispersion. The Fermi surface of unstrained La2-xSrxCuO4 evolves with doping as reported for scraped single crystals, but also changes strongly with strain. Our studies show, that the in-plane compressive strain changes the Fermi surface topology from hole-like to electron-like. It enhances band dispersion and the Fermi level is crossed before the Brillouin zone boundary, in sharp contrast to the "usual" saddle point remaining 30 meV below the Fermi level measured along the direction of the Cu-O bonds on unstrained samples. The associated reduction of the density of states near the Fermi level does not diminish the superconductivity; TC is enhanced in all our compressively strained samples. This result is rather surprising since such a reduction of the density of states, according to many mean field models, does not favor the increase of TC measured in our films. By comparing the ARPES measurements on our films with measurements on bulk crystals, we could also show that the results from our relaxed films are equivalent to those on bulk crystals, therefore excluding an explanation through finite size effects other than strain. Our latest results on films under huge tensile strain (1% change in c-axis) are significantly different: ARPES shows evidence for a 3-dimensional dispersion, in contrast with the strictly 2-dimensional dispersion observed on compressively strained films. Already the conduction band of relaxed La2-xSrxCuO4 is atypical: It has considerable apical-oxygen pz and Cu3dz2-r2 out-of-plane character, while for the rest of the cuprate HTSC, those orbitals hybridize far less with the conduction band. We relate the observed z-axis dispersion with the significant displacement of the apical-oxygen towards the CuO2 plane, induced by the epitaxial strain. Resistivity measurements show an insulating behavior of films under extreme tensile strain and no TC. Films with weaker tensile strain still exhibit superconductivity, but diminished as compared to the relaxed films. In summary, while the in-plane compressive strain tends to push the apical oxygen far away from the CuO2 plane, enhances the 2-dimensional character of the dispersion and increases TC, the tensile strain seems to act exactly in the opposite direction and the resulting dispersion is 3-dimensional. We have established the shape of the Fermi surface for both cases, yet further experiments are required to clarify fine details.