P, Xu, T. J. Huffman, I. H. Kwak, A. Biswas and M M Qazilbash
J. Phys.: Condens. Matter 30, 025602 (2017)
We investigate the temperature dependence of infrared properties at nanometer length scales in La0.67Sr0.33MnO3 (LSMO) thin film with a thickness of 47 unit cells grown on SrTiO3 substrate. The infrared nano-imaging experiments were performed using a near-field optical microscope in conjunction with a variable temperature heating stage. The near-field infrared data is consistent with the bulk of the LSMO film undergoing the thermally-driven non- percolative second-order transition from a metallic, ferromagnetic phase to an insulating, paramagnetic phase. We find persistent infrared contrast on the nanoscale that is independent of temperature and which we attribute to two novel phases with different conductivities coexisting in the vicinity of the film-substrate interface. These two coexisting phases at the film-substrate interface do not undergo the metal–insulator transition (MIT) and hence are different from the metallic, ferromagnetic and insulating, paramagnetic phases in the bulk of the film. At temperatures approaching the nominal MIT temperature, repeated scans of the same microscopic area at constant temperature reveal bimodal fluctuation of the near- field infrared amplitude. We interpret this phenomenon as slow, critical fluctuations of the conductivity in the bulk of the LSMO film.