Mesoscopic Fast Ion Conduction in Nanometre-Scale Planar Heterostructures

Max-Planck-Institut für Festkörperforschung, Stuttgart, Germany.
Nature (Impact Factor: 41.46). 12/2000; 408(6815):946-9. DOI: 10.1038/35050047
Source: PubMed


Ion conduction is of prime importance for solid-state reactions in ionic systems, and for devices such as high-temperature batteries and fuel cells, chemical filters and sensors. Ionic conductivity in solid electrolytes can be improved by dissolving appropriate impurities into the structure or by introducing interfaces that cause the redistribution of ions in the space-charge regions. Heterojunctions in two-phase systems should be particularly efficient at improving ionic conduction, and a qualitatively different conductivity behaviour is expected when interface spacing is comparable to or smaller than the width of the space-charge regions in comparatively large crystals. Here we report the preparation, by molecular-beam epitaxy, of defined heterolayered films composed of CaF2 and BaF2 that exhibit ionic conductivity (parallel to the interfaces) increasing proportionally with interface density--for interfacial spacing greater than 50 nanometres. The results are in excellent agreement with semi-infinite space-charge calculations, assuming a redistribution of fluoride ions at the interfaces. If the spacing is reduced further, the boundary zones overlap and the predicted mesoscopic size effect is observed. At this point, the single layers lose their individuality and an artificial ionically conducting material with anomalous transport properties is generated. Our results should lead to fundamental insight into ionic contact processes and to tailored ionic conductors of potential relevance for medium-temperature applications.

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