Congmian Zhen https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9652-3257
Xiaoshan Xu https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4363-392X
Date of this Version
Published in J. Phys. D: Appl. Phys. 51 (2018), 145308, 9 pp.
Despite low resistivity (~1 mΩ cm), metallic electrical transport has not been commonly observed in inverse spinel NiCo2O4, except in certain epitaxial thin films. Previous studies have stressed the effect of valence mixing and the degree of spinel inversion on the electrical conduction of NiCo2O4 films. In this work, we studied the effect of nanostructural disorder by comparing the NiCo2O4 epitaxial films grown on MgAl2O4 (1 1 1) and on Al2O3 (0 0 1) substrates. Although the optimal growth conditions are similar for the NiCo2O4 (1 1 1)/MgAl2O4 (1 1 1) and the NiCo2O4 (1 1 1)/Al2O3 (0 0 1) films, they show metallic and semiconducting electrical transport, respectively. Post-growth annealing decreases the resistivity of NiCo2O4 (1 1 1)/Al2O3 (0 0 1) films, but the annealed films are still semiconducting. While the semiconductivity and the large magnetoresistance in NiCo2O4 (1 1 1)/Al2O3 (0 0 1) films cannot be accounted for in terms of non-optimal valence mixing and spinel inversion, the presence of anti-phase boundaries between nano-sized crystallites, generated by the structural mismatch between NiCo2O4 and Al2O3, may explain all the experimental observations in this work. These results reveal nanostructural disorder as being another key factor for controlling the electrical transport of NiCo2O4, with potentially large magnetoresistance for spintronics applications.