Metal-insulator transition in CaVO3 thin films: Interplay between epitaxial strain, dimensional confinement, and surface effects
Sophie Beck, Gabriele Sclauzero, Uday Chopra, Claude Ederer
Physical review B
We use density functional theory plus dynamical mean-field theory (DFT+DMFT) to study multiple control parameters for tuning the metal-insulator transition (MIT) in CaVO_3 thin films. We focus on separating the effects resulting from substrate-induced epitaxial strain from those related to the reduced thickness of the film. We show that tensile epitaxial strain of around 3-4 to induce a transition to a paramagnetic Mott-insulating phase. This corresponds to the level of strain that could be
... eved on a SrTiO_3 substrate. Using free-standing slab models, we then demonstrate that reduced film thickness can also cause a MIT in CaVO_3, however, only for thicknesses of less than 4 perovskite units. Our calculations indicate that the MIT in such ultra-thin films results mainly from a surface-induced crystal-field splitting between the t_2g-orbitals, favoring the formation of an orbitally-polarized Mott insulator. This surface-induced crystal-field splitting is of the same type as the one resulting from tensile epitaxial strain, and thus the two effects can also cooperate. Furthermore, our calculations confirm an enhancement of correlation effects at the film surface, resulting in a reduced quasiparticle spectral weight in the outermost layer, whereas bulk-like properties are recovered within only a few layers away from the surface.