M. S. Kim, S. H. Park, S. Choi, J. Kim, K. H. Lee, S. Y. Noh, B. N. Chae, S. Lee, B. J. Kim and J. S. Lee
Current Applied Physics 46, 40 (2022)
We investigated structural and electronic inhomogeneities in a VO2 thin film grown on a (001)-oriented TiO2 substrate by exploiting nano-scale and macroscopic probing techniques. A compressive strain along the out-of-plane direction becomes additionally relaxed via microcracks which form a micron-sized rectangular pattern. A large inhomogeneity in the dielectric response is observed near the crack, and this signifies a strong coupling between electronic and lattice degrees of freedom. Interestingly, the strong inhomogeneity is observed also inside of the rectangular pattern, and it shows a gradient along one crystalline axis. We attribute such peculiar inhomogeneity observed in a relatively large length scale possibly to a combined effect of the strain relaxation and an oxygen vacancy distribution. As the nano-scale inhomogeneities in structural and electronic properties will eventually determine macroscopic responsivities, this work can be a good guide in designing VO2 thin films with appropriate controls of the strain and the chemical composition to realize better functionalities.