We report a study of the I-V characteristics of 2.5–5.4 nm epitaxial La1−xSrxMnO3 (x = 0.33 and 0.5) and La0.7Ca0.3MnO3 thin films. While La0.67Sr0.33MnO3 films exhibit linear conduction over the entire temperature and magnetic field ranges investigated, we observe a strong correlation between the linearity of the I-V relation and the metal-insulator transition in highly phase separated La0.5Sr0.5MnO3 and La0.7Ca0.3MnO3 films. Linear I-V behavior has been observed in the high temperature paramagnetic insulating phase, and an additional current term proportional to Vα (α = 1.5–2.8) starts to develop below the metal-insulator transition temperature TMI, with the onset temperature of the nonlinearity increasing in magnetic field as TMI increases. The exponent α increases with decreasing temperature and increasing magnetic field and is significantly enhanced in ultrathin films with thicknesses close to that of the electrically dead layer. We attribute the origin of the nonlinearity to transport through the nanoscale coexisting metallic and insulating regions. Our results suggest that phase separation is not fully quenched even at low temperatures and high magnetic fields.

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