Graduation Year

2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Name

Master of Urban & Reg Planning (M.U.R.P.)

Department

Physics

Degree Granting Department

Physics

Major Professor

Hariharan Srikanth, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Manh-Huong Phan, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sarath Witanachchi, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Inna Ponomareva, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Gerald Woods, Ph.D.

Keywords

Critical Exponents, Frustrated Magnetism, Magnetocaloric Effect, Manganites, Nanostructures, Phase Coexistence

Abstract

Complex magnetic oxides represent a unique intersection of immense technological importance and fascinating physical phenomena originating from interwoven structural, electronic and magnetic degrees of freedom. The resulting energetically close competing orders can be controllably selected through external fields. Competing interactions and disorder represent an additional opportunity to systematically manipulate the properties of pure magnetic systems, leading to frustration, glassiness, and other novel phenomena while finite sample dimension plays a similar role in systems with long-range cooperative effects or large correlation lengths. A rigorous understanding of these effects in strongly correlated oxides is key to manipulating their functionality and device performance, but remains a challenging task. In this dissertation, we examine a number of problems related to intrinsic and extrinsic low dimensionality, disorder, and competing interactions in magnetic oxides by applying a unique combination of standard magnetometry techniques and unconventional magnetocaloric effect and transverse susceptibility measurements.

The influence of dimensionality and disorder on the nature and critical properties of phase transitions in manganites is illustrated in La0.7Ca0.3MnO3, in which both size reduction to the nanoscale and chemically-controlled quenched disorder are observed to induce a progressive weakening of the first-order nature of the transition, despite acting through the distinct mechanisms of surface effects and site dilution. In the second-order material La0.8Ca0.2MnO3, a strong magnetic field is found to drive the system toward its tricritical point as competition between exchange interactions in the inhomogeneous ground state is suppressed. In the presence of large phase separation stabilized by chemical disorder and long-range strain, dimensionality has a profound effect. With the systematic reduction of particle size in microscale-phase-separated (La, Pr, Ca)MnO3 we observe a disruption of the long-range glassy strains associated with the charge-ordered phase in the bulk, lowering the field and pressure threshold for charge-order melting and increasing the ferromagnetic volume fraction as particle size is decreased. The long-range charge-ordered phase becomes completely suppressed when the particle size falls below 100 nm. In contrast, low dimensionality in the geometrically frustrated pseudo-1D spin chain compound Ca3Co2O6 is intrinsic, arising from the crystal lattice. We establish a comprehensive phase diagram for this exotic system consistent with recent reports of an incommensurate ground state and identify new sub-features of the ferrimagnetic phase. When defects in the form of grain boundaries are incorporated into the system the low-temperature slow-dynamic state is weakened, and new crossover phenomena emerge in the spin relaxation behavior along with an increased distribution of relaxation times. The presence of both disorder and randomness leads to a spin-glass-like state, as observed in γFe2O3 hollow nanoparticles, where freezing of surface spins at low temperature generates an irreversible magnetization component and an associated exchange-biasing effect. Our results point to distinct dynamic behaviors on the inner and outer surfaces of the hollow structures.

Overall, these studies yield new physical insights into the role of dimensionality and disorder in these complex oxide systems and highlight the sensitivity of their manifested magnetic ground states to extrinsic factors, leading in many cases to crossover behaviors where the balance between competing phases is altered, or to the emergence of entirely new magnetic phenomena.

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