Three-dimensional atomic scale electron density reconstruction of octahedral tilt epitaxy in functional perovskites

, , , , , , , , and . Nature Communications 9 (1): 5220-- (2018)


Octahedral tilts are the most ubiquitous distortions in perovskite-related structures that can dramatically influence ferroelectric, magnetic, and electronic properties; yet the paradigm of tilt epitaxy in thin films is barely explored. Non-destructively characterizing such epitaxy in three-dimensions for low symmetry complex tilt systems composed of light anions is a formidable challenge. Here we demonstrate that the interfacial tilt epitaxy can transform ultrathin calcium titanate, a non-polar earth-abundant mineral, into high-temperature polar oxides that last above 900 K. The comprehensive picture of octahedral tilts and polar distortions is revealed by reconstructing the three-dimensional electron density maps across film-substrate interfaces with atomic resolution using coherent Bragg rod analysis. The results are complemented with aberration-corrected transmission electron microscopy, film superstructure reflections, and are in excellent agreement with density functional theory. The study could serve as a broader template for non-destructive, three-dimensional atomic resolution probing of complex low symmetry functional interfaces.

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