Quest for a pristine unreconstructed SrTiO3(001) surface: An atomically resolved study via noncontact atomic force microscopy

I. Sokolović, G. Franceschi, Z. Wang, J. Xu, J. Pavelec, M. Riva, M. Schmid, U. Diebold, M. Setvín

Institut für Angewandte Physik, TU Wien, 1040 Wien, Austria
Department of Surface and Plasma Science, Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic

Phys. Rev. B 103 (2021) L241406

The surfaces of perovskite oxides affect their functional properties, and while a bulk-truncated (1×1) termination is generally assumed, its existence and stability is controversial. Here, such a surface is created by cleaving the prototypical SrTiO3(001) in ultrahigh vacuum, and its response to thermal annealing is observed. Atomically resolved noncontact atomic force microscopy (nc-AFM) shows that intrinsic point defects on the as-cleaved surface migrate at temperatures above 200 °C. At 400 °C-500 °C, a disordered surface layer forms, albeit still with a (1×1) pattern in low-energy electron diffraction (LEED). Purely TiO2-terminated surfaces, prepared by wet-chemical treatment, are also disordered despite their (1×1) periodicity in LEED.

Corresponding author: Martin Setvín (setvin at iap_tuwien_ac_at).

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