Reducing orbital occupancy in VO2 suppresses Mott physics while Peierls distortions persist
AbstractThe characteristics of the cooperative Mott-Peierls metal-insulator transition (MIT) of VO2 can be altered by employing epitaxial strain. While the most commonly used substrate for this purpose is isostructural rutile TiO2, thin films often suffer from interdiffusion of Ti ions near the interface. Exploiting this phenomena, we investigate the nature of interfacial V4+/Ti4+ cation intermixing and its effects on the MIT using scanning transmission electron microscopy with electron energy loss spectroscopy (STEM-EELS), soft x-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS), and hard x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (HAXPES), along with supporting density functional theory (DFT) calculations. We find that the reduced orbital occupancy in highly Ti incorporated VO2 is responsible for suppressing the MIT. Interdiffused films are found to be metallic at all measured temperatures, despite a resolute dimerization inferred from x-ray absorption data at lower temperatures. Our results demonstrate that the Mott physics can be suppressed in doped VO2, while a lattice dimerization remains thermodynamically favorable.