They say, 'never judge a book by its cover,' but for many pieces of technology it is only the 'cover' we are interested in. The properties of a material's surface are often what determine how the material will behaves in the devices we use it in. Now researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have found that the surface properties of complex oxide films may be more resilient to the environment they are fabricated in than the volume they cover.
Oxides are seeing ever increasing use in many pieces of technology as they are often cheaper to use than other materials, while still possessing the needed properties. The ORNL researchers decided to examine their properties with the material in a pristine state, meaning it has not been exposed to air and the many compounds it contains. As expected, the manganite material beneath the oxide surface became an insulator in the absence of oxygen, instead of being a conductor as usual. The surface however did not suffer changes to its electrical properties, despite having been grown in the vacuum surrounding the microscope that later analyzed it.
This discovery could one day have major implications on how complex oxide films are used in catalysis, batteries, and other technology. For now though the researchers point out that this discovery is so fundamental that it is next to impossible to predict exactly how it will be applied in the future.
Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory