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High Speed SPM Applied for Direct Nanoscale Mapping of the Influence of Defects on Ferroelectric Switching Dynamics

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A high speed variation of Scanning Probe Microscopy with continuous image rates on the order of 1 frame per second is applied to investigate the nucleation and growth of individual ferroelectric domains. Movies of consecutive images directly identify nascent domains and their nucleation times, while tracking their development with time and voltage reveals linear domain growth at lateral velocities near 1 mm/s, even faster for nascent domains. Nanoscale maps of nucleation times and growth velocities indicate that domain nucleation and growth are uncorrelated, varying extensively with position. Domain switching dynamics do strongly couple to film defects; for instance, grain boundaries can profoundly pin domain walls, and polarization reversal kinetics are influenced by strain fields near microcracks or in asymmetric specimens. The influence of the onset of switching fatigue is observed as well. These results highlight the importance of updating classical interpretations of ferroelectric switching for truly rigorous models of polarization dynamics. Coupling high speed SPM imaging with in situ activation by voltage or other parameters therefore provides an important methodology to research dynamic surface properties with nanoscale resolution, extendable to a range of materials such as photovoltaics, thermoelectrics, batteries, fuel cells, multiferroics, phase change systems, etc.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2012

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