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Inhomogeneous Phase Transition of Vanadium Oxide on Mesoscopic Scale


Vanadium oxides are a prototypical family of materials that exhibit first order metal insulator transitions (MIT). In the past 15 years, the research has been focused on the role of different driving forces and the inhomogeneity in the phase transitions of vanadium oxides. Multiple stimuli, such as voltage, current and laser pulses, have been used to induce a MIT in vanadium oxides. Inhomogeneity can give rise to phase coexistence and multiple avalanches in mesoscopic scale vanadium oxides. In this thesis, I will focus on understanding the MIT of mesoscopic vanadium oxides. I will address the phase transition mechanism through resistance - temperature (R- T) and current - voltage (I-V) characteristics. I will present the R-T characteristic of nano-sized vanadium oxide devices, which exhibits multiple avalanches over two orders of magnitude. Statistics on the avalanches indicate different MIT mechanisms for different vanadium oxides. The I-V characteristic of micro-sized vanadium oxide devices has been previously interpreted as evidence for a voltage induced transition, a non-thermal pure electronic transition in vanadium oxides. I will present a comprehensive study of the I-V characteristic supported by various techniques, including fluorescent local temperature measurement, low temperature scanning electron microscopy and numerical simulation. The results prove that Joule heating plays a significant role in the voltage induced transition of vanadium oxides. I will also discuss the other important aspect of the phase transition, the structural phase transition (SPT) in vanadium oxides. The SPT can be used to manipulate the magnetic properties of ferromagnetic materials, e.g. coercivity and magnetization. In a vanadium oxide/ferromagnet bilayer, the coercivity increases as the SPT occurs, due to the stress anisotropy induced by the SPT. In the special case of a V2O3/Ni bilayer with a smooth interface, a large coercivity enhancement appears at the middle of the V2O3 SPT. This effect is attributed to the phase coexistence in V2O3 at the nanoscale and supported by micromagnetic simulations

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