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Effects of Nonequilibrium Growth, Nonstoichiometry, and Film Orientation on the Metal-to-Insulator Transition in NdNiO3 Thin Films

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Next-generation devices will rely on exotic functional properties not found in traditional systems. One class of materials of particular interest for applications are those possessing metal-to-insulator transitions (MITs). In this work, we probe the relationship between variations in the growth process, subsequent variations in cation stoichiometry, and the MIT in NdNiO3 thin films. Slight variations in the growth conditions, in particular the laser fluence, during pulsed-laser deposition growth of NdNiO3 produces films that are both single-phase and coherently strained to a range of substrates despite possessing as much as 15% Nd-excess. Subsequent study of the temperature-dependence of the electronic transport reveals dramatic changes in both the onset and magnitude of the resistivity change at the MIT with increasing cation nonstoichiometry giving rise to a decrease (and ultimately a suppression) of the transition and the magnitude of the resistivity change. From there, the electronic transport of nearly ideal NdNiO3 thin films are studied as a function of epitaxial strain, thickness, and orientation. Overall, transitioning from tensile to compressive strain results in a systematic reduction of the onset and magnitude of the resistivity change across the MIT, thinner films are found to possess sharper MITs with larger changes in the resistivity at the transition, and (001)-oriented films exhibit sharper and larger MITs as compared to (110)- and (111)-oriented films as a result of highly anisotropic in-plane transport in the latter.

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