The presence of a neighboring oxygen vacancy strongly perturbs the iron 3d orbital energies (left). These distorted orbital energies lead to a unique, predicted spectral shape for the Fe x-ray absorption spectrum, which agrees very well with what was measured experimentally (right).

Missing Oxygen Atoms Are Key to Robust Spintronic Material

"the substitution of Fe atoms into In2O3 (In2O3:Fe) has recently yielded a very consistent and promising material."

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The endless pursuit of faster, more energy-efficient computers has led to the emergence of the field of spintronics, where the manipulation and detection of electron spins are utilized in electronic circuits. A particular class of materials called dilute magnetic oxides are promising candidates for spintronics applications because they exhibit the necessary combination of magnetic and semiconducting properties.

Using the soft x-ray absorption and scattering capabilities at Beamline 8.0.1, researchers studied In2O3:Fe to determine what leads to its surprisingly robust magnetic properties. They found that a subset of the impurity Fe atoms take residence in atomic sites that are directly adjacent to sites with a missing oxygen atom—the oxygen vacancies. Such positioning leads to a very strong perturbation of the Fe 3d orbital energies, which was detected in the x-ray experiments.