Thickness effect and mechanical tuning behavior such as strain engineering in thin-film ferroelectrics have been extensively studied and widely used to tailor the ferroelectric properties. However, this is never the case in freestanding single crystals, and conclusions from thin films cannot be duplicated because of the differences in the nature and boundary conditions of the thin-film and freestanding single-crystal ferroelectrics. Here, using in situ biasing transmission electron microscopy, we studied the thickness-dependent domain switching behavior and predicted the trend of ferroelectricity in nanoscale materials induced by surface strain. We discovered that sample thickness plays a critical role in tailoring the domain switching behavior and ferroelectric properties of single-crystal ferroelectrics, arising from the huge surface strain and the resulting surface reconstruction. Our results provide important insights in tuning polarization/domain of single-crystal ferroelectric via sample thickness engineering.
This content will become publicly available on December 1, 2023
The role of lattice dynamics in ferroelectric switching
Abstract Reducing the switching energy of ferroelectric thin films remains an important goal in the pursuit of ultralow-power ferroelectric memory and logic devices. Here, we elucidate the fundamental role of lattice dynamics in ferroelectric switching by studying both freestanding bismuth ferrite (BiFeO 3 ) membranes and films clamped to a substrate. We observe a distinct evolution of the ferroelectric domain pattern, from striped, 71° ferroelastic domains (spacing of ~100 nm) in clamped BiFeO 3 films, to large (10’s of micrometers) 180° domains in freestanding films. By removing the constraints imposed by mechanical clamping from the substrate, we can realize a ~40% reduction of the switching voltage and a consequent ~60% improvement in the switching speed. Our findings highlight the importance of a dynamic clamping process occurring during switching, which impacts strain, ferroelectric, and ferrodistortive order parameters and plays a critical role in setting the energetics and dynamics of ferroelectric switching.
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