Thomas Orvis, Tengfei Cao, Mythili Surendran, Harish Kumarasubramanian, Arashdeep Singh Thind, Austin Cunniff, Rohan Mishra, and Jayakanth Ravichandran, Nano Letter(2021)
Interfacial behavior of quantum materials leads to emergent phenomena such as quantum phase transitions and metastable functional phases. Probes for in situ and real time surface-sensitive characterization are critical for control during epitaxial synthesis of heterostructures. Termination switching in complex oxides has been studied using a variety of probes, often ex situ; however, direct in situ observation of this phenomena during growth is rare. To address this, we establish in situ and real time Auger electron spectroscopy for pulsed laser deposition with reflection high energy electron diffraction, providing structural and compositional surface information during film deposition. Using this capability, we show the direct observation and control of surface termination in heterostructures of SrTiO3 and SrRuO3. Density-functional-theory calculations capture the energetics and stability of the observed structures, elucidating their electronic behavior. This work demonstrates an exciting approach to monitor and control the composition of materials at the atomic scale for control over emergent phenomena and potential applications.