Artificial complex-oxide heterostructures containing ultrathin buried layers grown along the pseudocubic  direction have been predicted to host a plethora of exotic quantum states arising from the graphene-like lattice geometry and the interplay between strong electronic correlations and band topology. To date, however, electronic-structural investigations of such atomic layers remain an immense challenge due to the shortcomings of conventional surface-sensitive probes with typical information depths of a few angstroms. Here, we use a combination of bulk-sensitive soft X-ray angle-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy (SX-ARPES), hard X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (HAXPES), and state-of-the-art first-principles calculations to demonstrate a direct and robust method for extracting momentum-resolved and angle-integrated valence-band electronic structure of an ultrathin buckled graphene-like layer of NdNiO3 confined between two 4-unit cell-thick layers of insulating LaAlO3. The momentum-resolved dispersion of the buried Ni d states near the Fermi level obtained via SX-ARPES is in excellent agreement with the first-principles calculations and establishes the realization of an antiferro-orbital order in this artificial lattice. The HAXPES measurements reveal the presence of a valence-band bandgap of 265 meV. Our findings open a promising avenue for designing and investigating quantum states of matter with exotic order and topology in a few buried layers.
Keywords: Strongly correlated oxides; hard X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy; soft X-ray angle-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy.