Electronic Phase Separation in Correlated Oxides: The Phenomenon, Its Present Status and Future Prospects



Many transition metal oxide materials of high chemical purity are not necessarily monophasic. Thus, single crystals of chemically pure rare earth manganites and cobaltates of the general formula Ln1−xAxMO3 (Ln=rare earth metal, A=alkaline earth metal, M=Mn, Co) exhibit the phenomenon of electronic phase separation wherein “phases” of different electronic and magnetic properties coexist. Such phase separation, the length scale of which can vary anywhere between a few nanometers to microns, gives distinct signatures in X-ray and neutron diffraction patterns, electrical and magnetic properties, as well as in NMR and other spectroscopies. While the probe one employs to investigate electronic phase separation depends on the length scale, it is noteworthy that direct imaging of the inhomogeneities has been accomplished. Some understanding of this phenomenon has been possible on the basis of some of the theoretical models, but we are far from unraveling the varied aspects of this new phenomenon. Herein, we present the highlights of experimental techniques and theoretical approaches, and comment on the future outlook for this fascinating phenomenon.