The boundary between metal and insulator remains a fruitful source of emergent phenomena in materials, ranging from oxides, to cold atoms. Typically the insulating side of this boundary is occupied by an electronic crystal (though often disordered), and at higher temperatures a polaronic liquid or bad metal. While the paradigm Hamiltonian for this transition involves only short –range electronic correlations, in practice the transition is tuned by disorder, by screening of longer range Coulomb forces, and by coupling to the lattice. These lectures will discuss a few of these phenomena in real oxide systems including bulk and interface transition metal oxides.
Heterostructure oxides offer the opportunity to build in electric fields by precise control of chemistry on the atomic scale, used recently to generate modulation doping of two- dimensional electron gases (2DEG) in oxides. The origin of the 2DEG, whether in pristine or defected materials, is under debate. I will discuss the role of surface redox reactions, in particular O vacancies, as the source of mobile carriers, and also discuss their role in the switching of ferroelectricity in ultra-thin films.
While electric charges can be screened by mobile carriers, the same is not true of strain fields, which have intrinsic long-range interactions that cannot be screened. When strain fields are produced as a secondary order parameter in phase transitions - as for example in ferroelectrics - this produces unexpected consequences for the dynamics of order parameter fluctuations, including the generation of a gap in what would otherwise have been expected to be Goldstone modes. In some cases, eg manganites and nickelates, other intra-cell modes can nonlinearly screen the order parameter, which produces a strong sensitivity of ordering to octahedral rotations, essentially a jamming transition. This is relevant for tuning entropic effects at phase transitions, perhaps to enhance electro-caloric effects.