A surface-tailored, purely electronic, mott metal-to-insulator transition

Science. 2007 Oct 26;318(5850):615-9. doi: 10.1126/science.1145374.


Mott transitions, which are metal-insulator transitions (MITs) driven by electron-electron interactions, are usually accompanied in bulk by structural phase transitions. In the layered perovskite Ca(1.9)Sr(0.1)RuO4, such a first-order Mott MIT occurs in the bulk at a temperature of 154 kelvin on cooling. In contrast, at the surface, an unusual inherent Mott MIT is observed at 130 kelvin, also on cooling but without a simultaneous lattice distortion. The broken translational symmetry at the surface causes a compressional stress that results in a 150% increase in the buckling of the Ca/Sr-O surface plane as compared to the bulk. The Ca/Sr ions are pulled toward the bulk, which stabilizes a phase more amenable to a Mott insulator ground state than does the bulk structure and also energetically prohibits the structural transition that accompanies the bulk MIT.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.