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Dynamics of ferroelastic domains in ferroelectric thin films


Dynamics of domain interfaces in a broad range of functional thin-film materials is an area of great current interest. In ferroelectric thin films, a significantly enhanced piezoelectric response should be observed if non-180° domain walls were to switch under electric field excitation. However, in continuous thin films they are clamped by the substrate, and therefore their contribution to the piezoelectric response is limited. In this paper we show that when the ferroelectric layer is patterned into discrete islands using a focused ion beam, the clamping effect is significantly reduced, thereby facilitating the movement of ferroelastic walls. Piezo-response scanning force microscopy images of such islands in PbZr0.2Ti0.8O3 thin films clearly point out that the 90° domain walls can move. Capacitors 1 μm2 show a doubling of the remanent polarization at voltages higher than 15 V, associated with 90° domain switching, coupled with a d33 piezoelectric coefficient of 250 pm V−1 at remanence, which is approximately three times the predicted value of 87 pm V−1 for a single domain single crystal.

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Figure 1: PZT film architectures and nanostructuring effects.
Figure 2: The evolution of the ferroelastic domain structure as a function of applied electric field for a 1 μm2 island.
Figure 3: The effect of the movement of ferroelastic domains on the polarization response of a nanostructured island compared to a continuous film.
Figure 4: Piezoelectric measurements of the island compared with the continuous capacitors.

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This work was supported by a NSF-MRSEC Grant DMR 00-80008, NSF Grant DMR 0210512 and partly by a Department Of Energy S&P Center. We also acknowledge C. S. Ganpule for his contribution to the domain imaging studies and the effective stress calculations.

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Correspondence to R. Ramesh.

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Nagarajan, V., Roytburd, A., Stanishevsky, A. et al. Dynamics of ferroelastic domains in ferroelectric thin films. Nature Mater 2, 43–47 (2003).

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