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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Inverted orbital polarization in strained correlated oxide films


Manipulating the orbital occupation of valence electrons via epitaxial strain in an effort to induce new functional properties requires considerations of how changes in the local bonding environment affect the band structure at the Fermi level. Using synchrotron radiation to measure the x-ray linear dichroism of epitaxially strained films of the correlated oxide CaFeO3, we demonstrate that the orbital polarization of the Fe valence electrons is opposite from conventional understanding. Although the energetic ordering of the Fe 3d orbitals is confirmed by multiplet ligand field theory analysis to be consistent with previously reported strain-induced behavior, we find that the nominally higher energy orbital is more populated than the lower. We ascribe this inverted orbital polarization to an anisotropic bandwidth response to strain in a compound with nearly filled bands. These findings provide an important counterexample to the traditional understanding of strain-induced orbital polarization and reveal a method to engineer otherwise unachievable orbital occupations in correlated oxides.

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