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Sr2IrO4, known as the Jeff = 1/2 Mott insulator, was predicted to be an unconventional superconductor upon doping since it highly resembles the high-temperature cuprates. However, recent work pointed out an enhanced insulating behavior in the Ir-vacant Sr2Ir1–xO4 system. In this contribution, to investigate the microscopic mechanism of its enhanced insulating behavior, X-ray absorption spectroscopy was applied to study the electronic structure and local structure distortion of Sr2Ir1–xO4. Due to the presence of Ir5+ ions, the preconceived holes are barely doped in the Ir-vacant system. Nevertheless, Ir vacancies finely modulate the local atomic structure, i.e. the topology of IrO6 octahedra and the in-plane Ir—O1—Ir bond angle. Combined with theoretical calculations, it is demonstrated that both the more distorted IrO6 octahedra and decreased Ir—O1—Ir angle contribute to the increment of the band gap, and then result in the enhanced insulating state for Sr2Ir1–xO4.

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