Epitaxial strain and its relaxation at the LaAlO3/SrTiO3 interface

Guozhen Liu, Qingyu Lei, Matthäus A. Wolak, Qun Li, Long Qing Chen, Christopher Winkler, Jennifer Sloppy, Mitra L. Taheri, Xiaoxing Xi

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A series of LaAlO3 thin films with different thicknesses were deposited by pulsed laser deposition at temperatures from 720 °C to 800 °C. The results from grazing incidence x-ray diffraction and reciprocal space mapping indicate that a thin layer of LaAlO3 adjacent to the SrTiO3 substrate remains almost coherently strained to the substrate, while the top layer starts to relax quickly above a certain critical thickness, followed by a gradual relaxation at larger film thickness when they are grown at lower temperatures. The atomic force microscopy results show that the fast relaxation is accompanied by the formation of cracks on the film surface. This can be ascribed to the larger energy release rate when compared with the resistance of LaAlO3 to cracking, according to calculations from the Griffith fracture theory. For films grown at 720 °C, a drop in sheet resistance by two orders of magnitude is observed when the top layer starts to relax, indicating a relationship between the strain and the conductivity of the two-dimensional electron gas at the LaAlO3/SrTiO3 interface. The strain engineered by growth temperature provides a useful tool for the manipulation of the electronic properties of oxide heterointerfaces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number085302
JournalJournal of Applied Physics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 28 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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