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Nat Commun. 2011 Dec 20;2:591. doi: 10.1038/ncomms1600.

Revealing the role of defects in ferroelectric switching with atomic resolution.

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Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.


Ferroelectric materials are characterized by a spontaneous polarization, which can be reoriented with an applied electric field. The switching between polarized domains is mediated by nanoscale defects. Understanding the role of defects in ferroelectric switching is critical for practical applications such as non-volatile memories. This is especially the case for ferroelectric nanostructures and thin films in which the entire switching volume is proximate to a defective surface. Here we report the nanoscale ferroelectric switching of a tetragonal PbZr(0.2)Ti(0.8)O(3) thin film under an applied electric field using in situ transmission electron microscopy. We found that the intrinsic electric fields formed at ferroelectric/electrode interfaces determine the nucleation sites and growth rates of ferroelectric domains and the orientation and mobility of domain walls, whereas dislocations exert a weak pinning force on domain wall motion.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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