Postdoc Position Available

We have an opening for a postdoctoral research position in the synthesis of complex oxide thin films using hybrid molecular beam epitaxy (MBE). The project focuses on in situ studies of 3d and 5d transition metal oxides both at Auburn and at Argonne National Laboratory. Collaborative studies at Brookhaven National Laboratory will also be pursued.

You can read the full position advertisement here. To apply for the position, please send your application directly to with the subject line: 2022 Postdoctoral Research Position Application. Please include in the application (i) a cover letter describing your background and research interest, (ii) CV with a list of publications, and (iii) contact information of two or more references.

SrNbO3-BaSnO3 Paper Published in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces

Another day, another paper from Suresh Thapa! This paper in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces comes through a collaboration with Boris Kiefer and Sharad Mahatara at New Mexico State University where we have combined theory and experiment to examine the BaSnO3/SrNbO3 interface as a 2D electronic system. Sharad and Suresh deserve credit for getting this theory/experiment going and we’re happy to have built a new collaboration with Boris’ group. Thanks also to Hanjong Paik for the growth of the BaSnO3 films through the Cornell PARADIM user facility.

BaSnO3 is a high mobility, wide bandgap semiconductor that is promising for high electron mobility transistors and other devices. However, it is hard to modulation dope across the interface because of the low effective mass and band filling of the Sn 5s orbitals. Enter SrNbO3, which has low electron affinity and will readily donate electrons across an interface to BaSnO3. Using MBE to grow these heterostructures and in situ XPS to measure charge transfer, we’ve estimated that we can get more than 1014 electrons/cm2 into BaSnO3, which is more than a 10x improvement over past materials work with other donor materials. DFT modeling predicted carrier concentrations quite well. It’s a very promising first step towards engineering higher carrier concentrations in stannates with a lot more work to come.

This work was supported by our Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) Young Investigator project and Suresh’s Alabama EPSCOR Graduate Research Scholars fellowship.

Paper on SrNbO3 Film Synthesis Published in APL Materials

Nb 3d core level and valence band XPS for SrNbO3 thin films capped with and without SrHfO3 capping layers. (a) uncapped, (b) thin (0.8 nm) capped, (c) medium (1.2 nm) capped, and (d) thick (1.6 nm) capping of SHO. Fits to the data show spin–orbit split peaks of Nb4+ (low binding energy) and Nb5+ (high binding energy) features. (e) Valence band data showing density of states near the Fermi level for all four samples with DFT model.

Our paper on the growth of SrNbO3 by hybrid molecular beam epitaxy is out in APL Materials today. This work was led by former student Suresh Thapa as part of his Ph.D. and is the first demonstration of SrNbO3 by MBE. Suresh used a new kind of metal-organic precursor to grow these materials, which are very promising as interfacial donors. He did a great job with this challenging project and even built a DFT model in collaboration with Dr. Marcelo Kuroda to compare our experimental results with theoretical expectations!

One of the biggest challenges with d1 transition metal oxides is preserving a stable surface that doesn’t over-oxidize. To do that, we also developed a growth recipe for SrHfO3 that is critical if the samples are going to be accurately characterized. Our former postdoc Sydney Provence and current Ph.D. student Patrick Gemperline made big contributions to that part of the project. Our in situ XPS measurements from the figure above show that the capping layer preserves free electrons at the Fermi level, which is critical for use in interfacial heterostructures. Steven Spurgeon and Bethany Matthews from PNNL did a great job with STEM to show that we can preserve crystalline SrNbO3 down to 2 unit cells with a cap after atmospheric exposure. Steve Heald from the Advanced Photon Source conducted X-ray absorption spectroscopy on the capped samples to measure the valence after atmospheric exposure, which showed that the cap preserves the Nb4+ charge state.

Thanks to Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) for funding support on the project through the Young Investigator Program as well as the Alabama EPSCOR Graduate Research Scholars Program for supporting Suresh’s studies in his last year.

FINO Lab Receives DOE Laboratory Partnership Funding

Our lab will be starting a new project thanks to $750k in research funding from the Department of Energy EPSCoR Laboratory Partnership program in collaboration with Prof. Wencan Jin. The project focuses on the synthesis of 3d and 5d transition metal oxides for renewable energy and spintronic applications with in situ X-ray diffraction and spectroscopy during film growth. We will be working with Dr. Dillon Fong at Argonne National Lab and the Advanced Photon Source, Dr. Jurek Sadowski at Brookhaven National Lab and the NSLS-II, and Dr. Steven Spurgeon, our long-time electron microscopy collaborator at Pacific Northwest National Lab.

We will be supporting a post-doctoral scholar through this project to start in the next few months. Interested researchers should contact Dr. Comes by email. Contact info can be found under the “About” page on this website. An ad will be posted in the coming days.

Congratulations to Dr. Rajendra Paudel for Defending His Ph.D!

Congratulations Rajendra! His Ph.D. thesis focused on the synthesis of LaFeO3 heterostructures by MBE for use as oxygen evolution reduction catalysts. Through collaborations with Dr. Byron Farnum’s lab group he showed that LaFeO3/LaNiO3 heterostructures exhibit greater catalytic performance than either material by itself due to the favorable band alignment at the interface. Rajendra is starting work with Micron in Boise, ID in September to work with their thin films group. Way to go!

Dr. Comes Co-Organizing International Workshop on Oxide Electronics

Dr. Comes is co-organizing the 28th International Workshop on Oxide Electronics with Profs. Menka Jain (University of Connecticut), Divine Kumah (North Carolina State University), and Charles Ahn (Yale University). The IWOE will be held in Portland, Maine from October 2nd to October 5th at the Westin Portland Harborview.

“The International Workshop on Oxide Electronics series has become an important venue to discuss recent advances and emerging trends in this developing field. The aim of the workshop is to provide an interdisciplinary forum for researchers – theorists as well as experimentalists – on understanding the fundamental electronic and structural properties and also on the design, synthesis, processing, characterization, and applications of (epitaxial) functional oxide materials. Results of critical scientific importance as well as studies revealing the technological potential of functional oxide thin films to create devices with enhanced performance will be showcased.”

Abstract submission is now open on the website and are due June 15th. We look forward to seeing you in Maine!

Congratulations to Miles Blanchet and Suresh Thapa!

Suresh and Miles are the first two FINO Lab Ph.D. graduates! Both defended their dissertations over the last week and did a great job.

Miles’dissertation is entitled “Synthesis and Characterization of Mn-based Spinels Grown by Molecular Beam Epitaxy.” He has written two first author papers and has another in preparation on Mn spinels for water-splitting catalysis applications on our NSF project with Prof. Byron Farnum’s group. He was the first Ph.D. student to join the group and helped build the group’s MBE and XPS. He’ll be moving on to an industrial job over the summer that is being finalized soon. Congrats Miles!

Suresh did the first in situ studies on films grown by hybrid MBE, including SrTiO3 and SrNbO3. His thesis is entitled “Surface and Interfacial Studies of Perovskite Oxides Grown by Hybrid Molecular Beam Epitaxy” and was supported by our AFOSR grant. He has written a first author paper, has another in review, and one more in preparation. Suresh will move on to a job with Intel in Hillsboro, OR over the summer. Way to go Suresh!

Paper on MnFe2O4 Oxygen Reduction Reaction Catalysts Published in ACS Catalysis

Cyclic voltammetry of MnFe2O4 and Fe3O4 samples

Our collaborative paper with Prof. Byron Farnum’s group in the Department of Chemistry has been published in ACS Catalysis. In this work, Miles Blanchet from FINO Lab grew a series of MnFe2O4 and Fe3O4 samples by MBE on Nb-doped SrTiO3 and performed in situ XPS measurements. Alex Bredar from Prof. Farnum’s group performed cyclic voltammetry studies to examine the use of the materials for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR). Mn-based spinels have generated significant interest for their use in ORR and this work is the first to examine epitaxial films for ORR to attempt to explain the role that Mn plays in the catalysis. The work was funded by NSF through our collaborative grant.

Collaborative Paper on (La,Sr)2CuO4 Surface Reconstructions Published in Journal of Vacuum Science and Technology A

K-means clustering of RHEED images during growth and annealing of (La,Sr)2CuO4 film

Our collaborative paper with Dr. Eren Suyolcu of Cornell University and Prof. Gennady Logvenov of Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research is out today in the Journal of Vacuum Science and Technology A. In this work, Eren performed in situ experiments examining the surface reconstructions of Sr-doped La2CuO4 films grown by MBE. Using reflection high energy electron diffraction (RHEED), he tracked how the surface evolves during a shuttered growth routine in ozone and vacuum environments. Ph.D. student Patrick Gemperline applied the principle component analysis and K-means clustering codes developed in our lab by former postdoc Sydney Provence to track the evolution of these surface reconstructions and found that they match quite well to the shuttering times, supporting the conclusions from Eren’s experiments. Our contributions to the work were supported by our AFOSR Young Investigator grant.

LaFeO3 Thin Film OER Catalysis Study Published in Journal of Materials Chemistry A

Band alignment of LFO-n:STO interface vs. RHE

Our collaborative work with Prof. Byron Farnum’s group is out today in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A. This work was co-led by Andricus Burton in the Farnum group and Rajendra Paudel in FINO Lab and examines the role of film thickness on catalytic performance of LaFeO3 catalysts for the oxygen evolution reaction. It draws on Prof. Comes’ previous work on the band alignment of LaFeO3 with n-doped SrTiO3 to show how a combination of interfacial electronic reconstruction and the intrinsic high resistivity of LaFeO3 produce a sweet spot for catalysis at ~6 nm thickness. Electron microscopy work from Drs. Steven Spurgeon and Bethany Matthews as well as DFT modeling from Dr. Michel Sassi at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory helped to explain the complex physics and chemistry that occurs at the buried interface and film surface. The work is funded as part of the collaborative NSF grant between our two labs at Auburn.