Ultrathin manganite films are widely used as active electrodes in organic spintronic devices. In this study, a scanning tunnelling microscopy (STM) investigation with atomic resolution revealed previously unknown surface features consisting of small non-stoichiometric islands. Based upon this evidence, a new mechanism for the growth of these complex materials is proposed. It is suggested that the non-stoichiometric islands result from nucleation centres that are below the critical threshold size required for stoichiometric crystalline growth. These islands represent a kinetic intermediate of single-layer growth regardless of the film thickness, and should be considered and possibly controlled in manganite thin-film applications.
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