Electrical half-wave rectification at ferroelectric domain walls

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Domain walls in ferroelectric semiconductors show promise as multifunctional two-dimensional elements for next-generation nanotechnology. Electric fields, for example, can control the direct-current resistance and reversibly switch between insulating and conductive domain-wall states, enabling elementary electronic devices such as gates and transistors. To facilitate electrical signal processing and transformation at the domain-wall level, however, an expansion into the realm of alternating-current technology is required. Here, we demonstrate diode-like alternating-to-direct current conversion based on neutral ferroelectric domain walls in ErMnO3. By combining scanning probe and dielectric spectroscopy, we show that the rectification occurs at the tip–wall contact for frequencies at which the walls are effectively pinned. Using density functional theory, we attribute the responsible transport behaviour at the neutral walls to an accumulation of oxygen defects. The practical frequency regime and magnitude of the direct current output are controlled by the bulk conductivity, establishing electrode–wall junctions as versatile atomic-scale diodes.

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Fig. 1: Probing half-wave rectification at the nanoscale.
Fig. 2: Electrical half-wave rectification at domains and domain walls.
Fig. 3: Relation between bulk conductivity and rectifying behaviour of the tip-wall junction.
Fig. 4: Electrical rectification at neutral ferroelectric domain walls.
Fig. 5: Accumulation of oxygen interstitials at neutral ferroelectric domain walls.

Data availability

The data that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.


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The authors thank N.A. Spaldin, S.V. Kalinin and E. Soergel for fruitful discussions. D.M., M.F. and J.S. acknowledge funding from the SNF (Proposal No. 200021_149192) and the NTNU Onsager Fellowship Program (D.M.). Z.Y. and E.B. were supported by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences, Materials Sciences and Engineering Division under Contract No. DE-AC02-05-CH11231 within the Quantum Materials Program no. KC2202. Electron microscopy work was supported by the US Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Division of Materials Sciences and Engineering under Award No. DE-SC0002334. This work made use of the electron microscopy facility of the Cornell Center for Materials Research Shared Facilities, which are supported through the NSF MRSEC Program (DMR-1719875). S.K. acknowledges funding from the DFG via the Transregional Collaborative Research Center TRR 80 (Augsburg/Munich/Stuttgart, Germany), and from the BMBF via ENREKON 03EK3015.

Author information

J.S. and X.D. conducted the SPM study under the supervision of D.M. with assistance from M.L. (supervised by M.F.). S.H.S. performed the DFT calculations, supervised by S.M.S. S.K. recorded the macroscopic dielectric spectroscopy data. M.E.H. obtained the STEM data, supervised by D.A.M. Z.Y. and E.B. grew the ErMnO3 crystals and M.L. prepared the series of samples with different conduction properties. J.S., S.K., A.C. and D.M. analysed the experimental data. D.M. initiated and coordinated this project, and wrote the manuscript, supported by J.S., S.K. and S.M.S. All authors discussed the results and contributed to the final version of the manuscript.

Correspondence to Dennis Meier.

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Supplementary Figures 1–6, Supplementary Table 1

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Schaab, J., Skjærvø, S.H., Krohns, S. et al. Electrical half-wave rectification at ferroelectric domain walls. Nature Nanotech 13, 1028–1034 (2018) doi:10.1038/s41565-018-0253-5

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