Strain induced atomic structure at the Ir-doped LaAlO3/SrTiO3 interface
The structure of Ir-doped LaAlO3/SrTiO3(001) interfaces was investigated on the atomic scale using probe-corrected transmission electron microscopy in high-angle annular dark-field scanning mode (HAADF-STEM) and electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS), combined with first-principles calculations. We report the evolution of the strain state experimentally measured in a 5 unit-cell thick LaAlO3 film as a function of the Ir concentration in the topmost SrTiO3 layer. It is shown that the LaAlO3 layers remain fully elastically strained up to 3% of Ir doping, whereas a higher doping level seems to promote strain relaxation through enhanced cationic interdiffusion. The observed differences between the energy loss near edge structure (ELNES) of Ti-L2,3 and O-K edges at non-doped and Ir-doped interfaces are consistent with the location of the Ir dopants at the interface, up to 3% of Ir doping. These findings, supported by the results of density functional theory (DFT) calculations, provide strong evidence that the effect of dopant concentrations on the properties of this kind of interface should not be analyzed without obtaining essential information from the fine structural and chemical analysis of the grown structures.