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Temporary formation of highly conducting domain walls for non-destructive read-out of ferroelectric domain-wall resistance switching memories


Erasable conductive domain walls in insulating ferroelectric thin films can be used for non-destructive electrical read-out of the polarization states in ferroelectric memories. Still, the domain-wall currents extracted by these devices have not yet reached the intensity and stability required to drive read-out circuits operating at high speeds. This study demonstrated non-destructive read-out of digital data stored using specific domain-wall configurations in epitaxial BiFeO3 thin films formed in mesa-geometry structures. Partially switched domains, which enable the formation of conductive walls during the read operation, spontaneously retract when the read voltage is removed, reducing the accumulation of mobile defects at the domain walls and potentially improving the device stability. Three-terminal memory devices produced 14 nA read currents at an operating voltage of 5 V, and operated up to T = 85 °C. The gap length can also be smaller than the film thickness, allowing the realization of ferroelectric memories with device dimensions far below 100 nm.

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Figure 1: Creation of charged walls.
Figure 2: ‘On’ currents of 35-nm-thick nanodevices.
Figure 3: Domain switching in the 35-nm-thick nanodevices.
Figure 4: Wall currents for 120-nm-thick nanodevices and direct proof of these wall currents using scanning probe techniques.
Figure 5: Read and write schemes for three-terminal BFO memories.


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This work was supported by the National Key Basic Research Program of China (grant numbers 2014CB921004, 2014CB921002, and 2012CB921702) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant numbers 61674044 and 51332001). J.F.S. acknowledges the financial support of the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (grant number XDB07030200). C.S.H. acknowledges the support of the Global Research Laboratory Program (grant number NRF-2012K1A1A2040157) of the National Research Foundation of the Republic of Korea. The authors would like to thank Y. F. Chen, L. Gu, D. P. Wu and X. Q. Wang for providing technical support in performing EBL, TEM, COMSOL simulations and XRD analysis. We thank D. MacDonald, MSc, from L. Bianji, Edanz Group China (, for editing the English text of a draft of this manuscript.

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A.Q.J. conceived the idea for the work and performed the electrical characterization and part of the PFM characterization, and, in conjunction with D.W.Z., C.S.H. and J.F.S., directed the study and analysed the results. J.J. performed the BFO nanodevice fabrication process. Z.L.B. grew the films, measured the XRD patterns, and performed the CAFM measurements. Z.H.C. performed the finite element simulations. L.H. performed part of the PFM measurements, while J.A.S. fabricated the TEM samples, and Q.H.Z. performed the TEM observations. J.J. and Z.L.B. contributed equally to this work. All authors discussed the results. A.Q.J. and C.S.H. wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to An Quan Jiang.

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Jiang, J., Bai, Z., Chen, Z. et al. Temporary formation of highly conducting domain walls for non-destructive read-out of ferroelectric domain-wall resistance switching memories. Nature Mater 17, 49–56 (2018).

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