Switching adhesion forces by crossing the metal-insulator transition in Magnéli-type vanadium oxide crystals

Beilstein J Nanotechnol. 2011:2:59-65. doi: 10.3762/bjnano.2.8. Epub 2011 Jan 27.


Magnéli-type vanadium oxides form the homologous series V(n)O(2) (n) (-1) and exhibit a temperature-induced, reversible metal-insulator first order phase transition (MIT). We studied the change of the adhesion force across the transition temperature between the cleavage planes of various vanadium oxide Magnéli phases (n = 3 … 7) and spherical titanium atomic force microscope (AFM) tips by systematic force-distance measurements with a variable-temperature AFM under ultrahigh vacuum conditions (UHV). The results show, for all investigated samples, that crossing the transition temperatures leads to a distinct change of the adhesion force. Low adhesion corresponds consistently to the metallic state. Accordingly, the ability to modify the electronic structure of the vanadium Magnéli phases while maintaining composition, stoichiometry and crystallographic integrity, allows for relating frictional and electronic material properties at the nano scale. This behavior makes the vanadium Magnéli phases interesting candidates for technology, e.g., as intelligent devices or coatings where switching of adhesion or friction is desired.

Keywords: Magnéli phases; adhesion force; atomic force microscopy; metal–insulator transition; vanadium oxide.