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Nanotechnology. 2011 Jul 15;22(28):285309. doi: 10.1088/0957-4484/22/28/285309. Epub 2011 Jun 7.

Large-area regular nanodomain patterning in He-irradiated lithium niobate crystals.

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Center for Integrated Science and Technology, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA.


Large-area ferroelectric nanodomain patterns, which are desirable for nonlinear optical applications, were generated in previously He-implanted lithium niobate crystals by applying voltage pulses to the tip of a scanning force microscope. The individual nanodomains were found to be of uniform size, which depended only on the inter-domain spacing and the pulse amplitude. We explain this behavior by the electrostatic repulsion of poling-induced buried charges between adjacent domains. The domain patterns were imaged by piezoresponse force microscopy and investigated by domain-selective etching in conjunction with focused ion beam etching followed by scanning electron microscopy imaging. In order to optimize the He-irradiation parameters for easy and reliable nanodomain patterning a series of samples subjected to various irradiation fluences and energies was prepared. The different samples were characterized by investigating nanodomains generated with a wide range of pulse parameters (amplitude and duration). In addition, these experiments clarified the physical mechanism behind the facile poling measured in He-irradiated lithium niobate crystals: the damage caused by the energy loss that takes place via electronic excitations appears to act to stabilize the domains, whereas the nuclear-collision damage degrades the crystal quality, and thus impedes reliable nanodomain generation.

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