Research projects

Prepared thin films of rare earth nitrides.

Making rare-earth nitride films

The films, only 100-200 nm thick, are grown in our new ultra-high vacuum chamber. Rare-earth metals are heated to above 1000ºC in a nitrogen atmosphere and the reacted vapour condensed onto substrates of silicon, sapphire or YSZ. A capping layer prevents the nitrides reacting with air.

Once made, the films are characterised by a range of techniques. Their resistance is measured at low temperature (1-4 K) in the Raman Lab in our School, and their magnetic properties are determined with the SQUID Magnetometer at Callaghan Innovation. The optical properties are measured by Raman and UV Spectroscopy, FTIR, and we make extensive use of Synchrotron-based x-ray spectroscopy.

Experimenting with theory

Predicting the properties of the rare-earth nitrides by theoretical calculation is not yet fully reliable. Since they lie on the boundary between metals and insulators, the nitrides are an excellent testing ground for advanced electronic structure calculations.  By making and testing these materials, our experimental data can guide the development of theory for the behaviour of these and other strongly correlated compounds.

Available research projects

We are actively recruiting postgraduate students. These projects are now available:

  • Magnetic properties of rare-earth nitrides
  • Growth and study of rare-earth nitride-based spintronic devices
  • Electronic structure of rare-earth nitrides
  • Exploring the chemistry of a clean rare-earth surface in breaking the triple bond of molecular nitrogen