Z. Li, J. Wu, Z. Hu, Y. Lin, Q. Chen, Y. Guo, Y. Liu, Y. Zhao, J. Peng, W. Chu, C. Wu and Yi Xie
Nature Communications 8, 15561 (2017)
In correlated systems, intermediate states usually appear transiently across phase transitions even at the femtosecond scale. It therefore remains an open question how to determine these intermediate states—a critical issue for understanding the origin of their correlated behaviour. Here we report a surface coordination route to successfully stabilize and directly image an intermediate state in the metal-insulator transition of vanadium dioxide. As a prototype metal-insulator transition material, we capture an unusual metal-like monoclinic phase at room temperature that has long been predicted. Coordinate bonding of L-ascorbic acid molecules with vanadium dioxide nanobeams induces charge-carrier density reorganization and stabilizes metallic monoclinic vanadium dioxide, unravelling orbital-selective Mott correlation for gap opening of the vanadium dioxide metal–insulator transition. Our study contributes to completing phase-evolution pathways in the metal-insulator transition process, and we anticipate that coordination chemistry may be a powerful tool for engineering properties of low-dimensional correlated solids.