Staff directory Christina Stefani

Christina Stefani

Doctoral Student
Oxide Nanophysics



  • Voltage control of magnetism with magneto-ionic approaches: Beyond voltage-driven oxygen ion migration

    De Rojas J., Quintana A., Rius G., Stefani C., Domingo N., Costa-Krämer J.L., Menéndez E., Sort J. Applied Physics Letters; 120 (7, 070501) 2022. 10.1063/5.0079762. IF: 3.791

    Magneto-ionics is an emerging field in materials science where voltage is used as an energy-efficient means to tune magnetic properties, such as magnetization, coercive field, or exchange bias, by voltage-driven ion transport. We first discuss the emergence of magneto-ionics in the last decade, its core aspects, and key avenues of research. We also highlight recent progress in materials and approaches made during the past few years. We then focus on the "structural-ion"approach as developed in our research group in which the mobile ions are already present in the target material and discuss its potential advantages and challenges. Particular emphasis is given to the energetic and structural benefits of using nitrogen as the mobile ion, as well as on the unique manner in which ionic motion occurs in CoN and FeN systems. Extensions into patterned systems and textures to generate imprinted magnetic structures are also presented. Finally, we comment on the prospects and future directions of magneto-ionics and its potential for practical realizations in emerging fields, such as neuromorphic computing, magnetic random-access memory, or micro- and nano-electromechanical systems. © 2022 Author(s).


  • Deconvolution of Phonon Scattering by Ferroelectric Domain Walls and Point Defects in a PbTiO3Thin Film Deposited in a Composition-Spread Geometry

    Bugallo D., Langenberg E., Ferreiro-Vila E., Smith E.H., Stefani C., Batlle X., Catalan G., Domingo N., Schlom D.G., Rivadulla F. ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces; 13 (38): 45679 - 45685. 2021. 10.1021/acsami.1c08758. IF: 9.229

    We present a detailed analysis of the temperature dependence of the thermal conductivity of a ferroelectric PbTiO3 thin film deposited in a composition-spread geometry enabling a continuous range of compositions from ∼25% titanium deficient to ∼20% titanium rich to be studied. By fitting the experimental results to the Debye model we deconvolute and quantify the two main phonon-scattering sources in the system: ferroelectric domain walls (DWs) and point defects. Our results prove that ferroelectric DWs are the main agent limiting the thermal conductivity in this system, not only in the stoichiometric region of the thin film ([Pb]/[Ti] ≈ 1) but also when the concentration of the cation point defects is significant (up to ∼15%). Hence, DWs in ferroelectric materials are a source of phonon scattering at least as effective as point defects. Our results demonstrate the viability and effectiveness of using reconfigurable DWs to control the thermal conductivity in solid-state devices. © 2021 American Chemical Society.

  • Mechanical reading of ferroelectric polarization

    Stefani C., Langenberg E., Cordero-Edwards K., Schlom D.G., Catalan G., Domingo N. Journal of Applied Physics; 130 (7, 0059930) 2021. 10.1063/5.0059930. IF: 2.546

    Flexoelectricity is a property of dielectric materials whereby they exhibit electric polarization induced by strain gradients; while this effect can be negligible at the macroscale, it can become dominant at the nanoscale, where strain gradients can turn out to be tremendous. Previous works have demonstrated that flexoelectricity coupled with piezoelectricity enables the mechanical writing of ferroelectric polarization. When considering ferroelectric materials with out-of-plane polarization, the coupling of piezoelectricity with flexoelectricity can insert a mechanical asymmetry to the system and enable the distinction of oppositely polarized domains, based on their nanomechanical response. Using atomic force microscopy and, more specifically, contact resonance techniques, the coupling of flexoelectricity to piezoelectricity can be exploited to mechanically read the sign of ferroelectric polarization in a non-destructive way. We have measured a variety of ferroelectric materials, from a single crystal to thin films, and domains that are polarized down always appear to be stiffer than oppositely polarized domains. In this article, we demonstrate experimentally that the phenomenon is size-dependent and strongly enhanced when the dimension of the material is reduced to nanoscale in thin films. Ultimately, we demonstrate how the sensitivity in mechanical reading of ferroelectric polarization can be improved by appropriately tuning the mechanical stiffness of the cantilevers. © 2021 Author(s).


  • Mechanical Softness of Ferroelectric 180° Domain Walls MECHANICAL SOFTNESS of FERROELECTRIC 180 DEGREE ... STEFANI CHRISTINA et al.

    Stefani C., Ponet L., Shapovalov K., Chen P., Langenberg E., Schlom D.G., Artyukhin S., Stengel M., Domingo N., Catalan G. Physical Review X; 10 (4, 041001) 2020. 10.1103/PhysRevX.10.041001. IF: 12.577

    Using scanning probe microscopy, we measure the out-of-plane mechanical response of ferroelectric 180° domain walls and observe that, despite separating domains that are mechanically identical, the walls appear mechanically distinct-softer-compared to the domains. This effect is observed in different ferroelectric materials (LiNbO3, BaTiO3, and PbTiO3) and with different morphologies (from single crystals to thin films), suggesting that the effect is universal. We propose a theoretical framework that explains the domain wall softening and justifies that the effect should be common to all ferroelectrics. The lesson is, therefore, that domain walls are not only functionally different from the domains they separate, but also mechanically distinct. © 2020 authors. Published by the American Physical Society. Published by the American Physical Society under the terms of the ""Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. Further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the published article's title, journal citation, and DOI.


  • Signal enhancement on gold nanoparticle-based lateral flow tests using cellulose nanofibers

    Quesada-González D., Stefani C., González I., de la Escosura-Muñiz A., Domingo N., Mutjé P., Merkoçi A. Biosensors and Bioelectronics; 141 (111407) 2019. 10.1016/j.bios.2019.111407. IF: 9.518

    Lateral flow paper-based biosensors merge as powerful tools in point-of-care diagnostics since they are cheap, portable, robust, selective, fast and easy to use. However, the sensitivity of this type of biosensors is not always as high as required, often not permitting a clear quantification. To improve the colorimetric response of standard lateral flow strips (LFs), we have applied a new enhancement strategy that increases the sensitivity of LFs based on the use of cellulose nanofibers (CNF). CNF penetrate inside the pores of LFs nitrocellulose paper, compacting the pore size only in the test line, particularly near the surface of the strip. This modification retains the bioreceptors (antibodies) close to the surface of the strips, and thus further increasing the density of selectively attached gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) in the top part of the membrane, in the test line area, only when the sample is positive. This effect boosts in average a 36.6% the sensitivity of the LFs. The optical measurements of the LFs were carried out with a mobile phone camera whose imaging resolution was improved by attaching microscopic lens on the camera objective. The characterization of CNF into paper and their effect was analyzed using atomic force microscope (AFM) and scanning electron microscope (SEM) imaging techniques. © 2019 Elsevier B.V.