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Effect of heating/cooling dynamics in the hysteresis loop and tunable IR emissivity of VO2 thin films.

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We experimentally investigate the semiconductor-to-metal transition (SMT) in vanadium dioxide thin films using an infrared thermographic technique. During the semiconductor to metal phase change process, VO2 optical properties dynamically change and infrared emission undergoes a hysteresis loop due to differences between heating and cooling stages. The shape of the hysteresis loop was accurately monitored under different dynamic heating/cooling rates. In order to quantify and understand the effects of different rates, we used a numerical modelling approach in which a VO2 thin layer was modeled as metamaterial. The main experimental findings are interpreted assuming that both the rate of formation and shape of metallic inclusions are tuned with the heating/cooling rate. The structural transition from monoclinic to tetragonal phases is the main mechanism for controlling the global properties of the phase transition. However, our experimental results reveal that the dynamics of the heating/cooling process can become a useful parameter for further tuning options and lays out a macroscopic optical sensing scheme for the microscopic phase change dynamics of VO2. Our study sheds light on phase-transition dynamics and their effect on the infrared emission spectra of VO2 thin films, therefore enabling the heating/cooling rate to be an additional parameter to control infrared emission characteristics of thermal emitters. The hysteresis loop represents the phase coexistence region, thus being of fundamental importance for several applications, such as the operation of radiative thermal logic elements based on phase transition materials. For such applications, the phase transition region is shifted for heating and cooling processes. We also show that, depending on the way the phase change elements are heated, the temperature operation range will be slightly modified.

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