Asymmetric orbital-lattice interactions in ultrathin correlated oxide films

Phys Rev Lett. 2011 Sep 9;107(11):116805. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.107.116805. Epub 2011 Sep 9.


Using resonant x-ray spectroscopies combined with density functional calculations, we find an asymmetric biaxial strain-induced d-orbital response in ultrathin films of the correlated metal LaNiO3 which are not accessible in the bulk. The sign of the misfit strain governs the stability of an octahedral "breathing" distortion, which, in turn, produces an emergent charge-ordered ground state with an altered ligand-hole density and bond covalency. Control of this new mechanism opens a pathway to rational orbital engineering, providing a platform for artificially designed Mott materials.