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Abstract

Topological defects in ferroic materials are attracting much attention both as a playground of unique physical phenomena and for potential applications in reconfigurable electronic devices. Here, we explore electronic transport at artificially created ferroelectric vortices in BiFeO3 thin films. The creation of one-dimensional conductive channels activated at voltages as low as 1 V is demonstrated. We study the electronic as well as the static and dynamic polarization structure of several topological defects using a combination of first-principles and phase-field modelling. The modelling predicts that the core structure can undergo a reversible transformation into a metastable twist structure, extending charged domain walls segments through the film thickness. The vortex core is therefore a dynamic conductor controlled by the coupled response of polarization and electron–mobile-vacancy subsystems with external bias. This controlled creation of conductive one-dimensional channels suggests a pathway for the design and implementation of integrated oxide electronic devices based on domain patterning.

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Acknowledgements

Experiments were conducted at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, which is sponsored at Oak Ridge National Laboratory by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences, US Department of Energy. Support was provided by the Division of Scientific User Facilities (N.B.) and by the Materials Sciences and Engineering Division (S.V.K.) of the US Department of Energy, Basic Energy Sciences. B.W., J.B. and L.Q.C. are supported by US Department of Energy, Basic Sciences, under Grant No. DE-FG02-07ER46417. L.B. thanks mostly support from the Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, under contract ER-46612. L.B. also thanks the National Science Foundation grants DMR-1066158 and DMR-0701558, and Office of Naval Research grants N00014-11-1-0384, N00014-08-1-0915 and N00014-07-1-0825. Some computations were also made possible thanks to the National Science Foundation grant 0722625 and a challenge grant from the US Department of Defense. Y.H.C. acknowledges the support of the National Science Council, Republic of China, under contract NSC-100-2811-M-009-003. M.H. acknowledges support by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) through a VENI grant.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. The Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37831, USA

    • Nina Balke
    • , Petro Maksymovych
    • , Stephen Jesse
    •  & Sergei V. Kalinin
  2. Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, USA

    • Benjamin Winchester
    • , Jason Britson
    •  & Long Qing Chen
  3. Physics Department and Institute for Nanoscience and Engineering, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas 72701, USA

    • Wei Ren
    •  & Laurent Bellaiche
  4. Department of Materials Science and Engineering, National Chiao Tung University, Hsinchu 30010, Taiwan

    • Ying Hao Chu
  5. Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Department of Physics, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, USA

    • Ying Hao Chu
    •  & Ramamoorthy Ramesh
  6. Institute for Problems of Materials Science, National Academy of Science of Ukraine, UA-03142 Kiev, Ukraine

    • Anna N. Morozovska
  7. Institute of Semiconductor Physics, National Academy of Science of Ukraine, UA-03028 Kiev, Ukraine

    • Eugene A. Eliseev
  8. Faculty of Science and Technology, MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology, University of Twente, PO Box 217, 7500 AE, Enschede, The Netherlands

    • Mark Huijben
  9. School of Materials Science and Engineering, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales 2052, Australia

    • Rama K. Vasudevan
  10. Laboratoire Structures, Proprietes et Modelisation des Solides, Ecole Centrale Paris, CNRS-UMR8580, Grande Voie des Vignes, 92295 Chatenay-Malabry Cedex, France

    • Igor Kornev

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Contributions

N.B. and S.V.K. conceived and designed the experiments, and wrote the article. N.B. performed the experiments. B.W., J.B. and L.Q.C. performed phase-field modelling. W.R., L.B. and I.K. performed DFT calculations. A.N.M. and E.A.E. provided analytical theory for vortex structure and vacancy segregation. M.H., Y.H.C. and R.R. contributed materials and S.J. developed spectroscopic measurement technique and analysis tools. S.V.K., P.M. and R.K.V. co-wrote the article. All authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Nina Balke or Sergei V. Kalinin.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nphys2132

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