While SmS thin films show an irreversible semiconductor-metal transition upon application of pressure, the switching characteristics can be modified by alloying with other elements, such as europium. This manuscript reports on the resistance response of tri-layer SmS/EuS/SmS thin films upon applying pressure and on the correlation between the resistance response and the interdiffusion between the layers. SmS thin films were deposited by e-beam sublimation of Sm in an H2
S atmosphere, while EuS was directly sublimated by e-beam from EuS. Structural properties of the separate thin films were first studied before the deposition of the final nanocomposite tri-layer system. Piezoresistance measurements demonstrated two sharp resistance drops. The first drop, at lower pressure, corresponds to the switching characteristic of SmS. The second drop, at higher pressure, is attributed to EuS, partially mixed with SmS. This behavior provides either a well-defined three or two states system, depending on the degree of mixing. Depth profiling using x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) revealed partial diffusion between the compounds upon deposition at a substrate temperature of 400 °C. Thinner tri-layer systems were also deposited to provide more interdiffusion. A higher EuS concentration led to a continuous transition as a function of pressure. This study shows that EuS-modified SmS thin films are possible systems for piezo-electronic devices, such as memory devices, RF (radio frequency) switches and piezoresistive sensors.
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