Date of Award

5-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Materials Science and Engineering

Major Professor

Veerle M. Keppens

Committee Members

George M. Pharr, Chuck L. Melcher, Adriana Moreo

Abstract

The elastic properties of novel transition metal oxides have been investigated, using a powerful technique known as Resonant Ultrasound Spectroscopy (RUS). Two sets of transition metal oxides have been studied. One is the ruthenate Ca2-xSrxRuO4 series with a layered perovskite structure, a Mott transition system that connects the Mott insulator Ca2RuO4 with the unconventional superconductor Sr2RuO4. The other set contains geometrically frustrated materials, including vanadium spinels AV2O4 (A = Zn, Mn and Fe) and titanate pyrochlores A2Ti2O7 (A= Y, Tb, Yb, Ho and Dy).

The elastic response of five Ca2-xSrxRuO4 single crystals (x = 2.0, 1.9, 0.5, 0.3 and 0.2) has been measured. For 2.0 ≥ x ≥ 0.5, a dramatic softening over a wide temperature range is observed upon cooling, caused by the rotational instability of RuO6 octahedra (for x = 2.0 and 1.9) or the static rotation of the octahedra (for x = 0.5). For the Ca-rich samples (x = 0.3 and 0.2), the softening occurs in a very narrow temperature range, corresponding to the structural phase transition from high-temperature-tetragonal to low-temperature-orthorhombic symmetry.

Elastic softening in ZnV2O4 is observed near the cubic-to-tetragonal structural phase transition at 50 K. The elastic response of MnV2O4 is quite unusual, displaying a softening over a wide temperature range with decreasing temperature. Upon cooling, C’ of FeV2O4 becomes so soft that it drops to almost zero around 140 K, where the cubic-to-tetragonal structural transition occurs.

For Y2Ti2O7, all three elastic constants show normal “Varshni” behavior. For spin liquid Tb2Ti2O7, all three elastic constants show a pronounced softening below 50 K, indicative of a possible Jahn-Teller, cubic-to-tetragonal transition at very low temperatures. It is also found that the application of a magnetic field suppresses the elastic softening in this compound. Another spin liquid Yb2Ti2O7 shows no elastic softening. The elastic moduli of the spin-ice compounds, Ho2Ti2O7 and Dy2Ti2O7, show a broad “dip” around 100 K, which is believed to be caused by the strong crystal field effect in those two compounds.

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