Memory effect in photochromic rare-earth oxyhydride thin films studied by in situ positron annihilation spectroscopy upon photodarkening-bleaching cycling

Ziying Wu*, Lidwin De Wit, Melanie Beek, Giorgio Colombi, Diana Chaykina, Herman Schreuders, Henk Schut, Maik Butterling, Ekkes Brück, Bernard Dam, Stephan W.H. Eijt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Cycling stability of the photochromic effect in rare-earth oxyhydride thin films is of great importance for long-term applications such as smart windows. However, an increasingly slower bleaching rate upon photochromic cycling was found in yttrium oxyhydride thin films; the origin of this memory effect is yet unclear. In this work, the microstructural changes under six photodarkening-bleaching cycles in YHxOy and GdHxOy thin films are investigated by in situ illumination Doppler broadening positron annihilation spectroscopy, complemented by positron annihilation lifetime spectroscopy (PALS) investigations on YHxOy films before and after one cycle. For the first three cycles, the Doppler broadening S parameter after bleaching increases systematically with photodarkening-bleaching cycle, and correlates with the bleaching time constant extracted from optical transmittance measurements. This suggests that the microstructural evolution that leads to progressively slower bleaching involves vacancy creation and agglomeration. PALS suggests that during a photodarkening-bleaching cycle, divacancies are formed that are possibly composed of illumination-induced hydrogen vacancies and preexisting yttrium monovacancies, and vacancy clusters grow, which might be due to local removal of hydrogen. If bleaching is a diffusion-related process, the formed vacancy defects induced by illumination might affect the diffusion time by reducing the diffusion coefficient. Hydrogen loss could also be a key factor in the reduced bleaching kinetics. Other microstructural origins including domain growth, or formation of OH- hydroxide groups, are also discussed with respect to the slower bleaching kinetics. During the fourth to sixth photodarkening-bleaching cycle, reversible shifts in the Doppler S and W parameters are seen that are consistent with the reversible formation of metallic-like domains, previously proposed as a key factor in the mechanism for the photochromic effect.

Original languageEnglish
Article number045201
Number of pages14
JournalPhysical Review Materials
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2024

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Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository ‘You share, we take care!’ – Taverne project Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


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