Suppression of Metal-Insulator Transition in VO2 by Electric Field–Induced Oxygen Vacancy Formation

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Science  22 Mar 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6126, pp. 1402-1405
DOI: 10.1126/science.1230512

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Mind the Vacancies

Varying the carrier density of solid-state systems to manipulate their electrical properties usually involves chemical doping, which can lead to disorder. Recently, ionic liquids have been used to form an electronic double layer on the surface of a material, tuning its carrier density by the application of an electric field. Jeong et al. (p. 1402) used liquid gating on VO2, which undergoes a metal-insulator transition close to room temperature. The liquid gating suppressed the transition to lower and lower temperatures; however, the material remained in the metallic state, even when the gating fluid was washed off. It appears that, instead of a simple electrostatic effect, the properties of VO2 are modulated by the introduction of oxygen vacancies, an electrochemical consequence of high electric fields. The results imply that careful interpretation of liquid gating experiments in condensed matter physics is needed.


Electrolyte gating with ionic liquids is a powerful tool for inducing novel conducting phases in correlated insulators. An archetypal correlated material is vanadium dioxide (VO2), which is insulating only at temperatures below a characteristic phase transition temperature. We show that electrolyte gating of epitaxial thin films of VO2 suppresses the metal-to-insulator transition and stabilizes the metallic phase to temperatures below 5 kelvin, even after the ionic liquid is completely removed. We found that electrolyte gating of VO2 leads not to electrostatically induced carriers but instead to the electric field–induced creation of oxygen vacancies, with consequent migration of oxygen from the oxide film into the ionic liquid. This mechanism should be taken into account in the interpretation of ionic liquid gating experiments.

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