Novel Electronic Behavior Driving NdNiO3 Metal-Insulator Transition
PublisherAmerican Physical Society
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We present evidence that the metal-insulator transition (MIT) in a tensile-strained NdNiO3 (NNO) film is facilitated by a redistribution of electronic density and that it neither requires Ni charge disproportionation nor a symmetry change [U. Staub et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 88, 126402 (2002); R. Jaramillo et al., Nat. Phys. 10, 304 (2014)]. Given that epitaxial tensile strain in thin NNO films induces preferential occupancy of the eg dx2−y2 orbital we propose that the larger transfer integral of this orbital state with the O 2p orbital state mediates a redistribution of electronic density from the Ni atom. A decrease in the Ni dx2−y2 orbital occupation is directly observed by resonant inelastic x-ray scattering below the MIT temperature. Furthermore, an increase in the Nd charge occupancy is measured by x-ray absorption at the Nd L3 edge. Both spin-orbit coupling and crystal field effects combine to break the degeneracy of the Nd 5d states, shifting the energy of the Nd eg dx2−y2 orbit towards the Fermi level, allowing the A site to become an active acceptor during the MIT. This work identifies the relocation of electrons from the Ni 3d to the Nd 5d orbitals across the MIT. We propose that the insulating gap opens between the Ni 3d and O 2p states, resulting from Ni 3d electron localization. The transition seems to be neither a purely Mott-Hubbard transition nor a simple charge transfer.