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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Nano-Resolved Current-Induced Insulator-Metal Transition in the Mott Insulator Ca2RuO4

  • Author(s): Zhang, J
  • McLeod, AS
  • Han, Q
  • Chen, X
  • Bechtel, HA
  • Yao, Z
  • Gilbert Corder, SN
  • Ciavatti, T
  • Tao, TH
  • Aronson, M
  • Carr, GL
  • Martin, MC
  • Sow, C
  • Yonezawa, S
  • Nakamura, F
  • Terasaki, I
  • Basov, DN
  • Millis, AJ
  • Maeno, Y
  • Liu, M
  • et al.

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The Mott insulator Ca2RuO4 is the subject of much recent attention following reports of emergent nonequilibrium steady states driven by applied electric fields or currents. In this paper, we carry out infrared nano-imaging and optical-microscopy measurements on bulk single crystal Ca2RuO4 under conditions of steady current flow to obtain insight into the current-driven insulator-to-metal transition. We observe macroscopic growth of the current-induced metallic phase, with nucleation regions for metal and insulator phases determined by the polarity of the current flow. A remarkable metal-insulator-metal microstripe pattern is observed at the phase front separating metal and insulator phases. The microstripes have orientations tied uniquely to the crystallographic axes, implying a strong coupling of the electronic transition to lattice degrees of freedom. Theoretical modeling further illustrates the importance of the current density and confirms a submicron-thick surface metallic layer at the phase front of the bulk metallic phase. Our work confirms that the electrically induced metallic phase is nonfilamentary and is not driven by Joule heating, revealing remarkable new characteristics of electrically induced insulator-metal transitions occurring in functional correlated oxides.

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