Observation of a periodic array of flux-closure quadrants in strained ferroelectric PbTiO3 films

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Science  01 May 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6234, pp. 547-551
DOI: 10.1126/science.1259869

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Getting closure in ferroelectric films

Ferroelectric materials have a spontaneous electric polarization that can be manipulated for applications. The polarization is usually not uniform throughout the material, and for nanosized ferroelectrics, polarization can be quite complex. Using scanning transmission electron microscopy, Tang et al. found that in thin films of the ferroelectric PbTiO3, the polarization vector rotated in space, forming a closed loop, the so-called flux closure. The flux closure structures formed an array, with the period dependent on the width of the thin film, and caused the buildup of considerable strain within the crystal lattice of the material

Science, this issue p. 547


Nanoscale ferroelectrics are expected to exhibit various exotic domain configurations, such as the full flux-closure pattern that is well known in ferromagnetic materials. Here we observe not only the atomic morphology of the flux-closure quadrant but also a periodic array of flux closures in ferroelectric PbTiO3 films, mediated by tensile strain on a GdScO3 substrate. Using aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy, we directly visualize an alternating array of clockwise and counterclockwise flux closures, whose periodicity depends on the PbTiO3 film thickness. In the vicinity of the core, the strain is sufficient to rupture the lattice, with strain gradients up to 109 per meter. Engineering strain at the nanoscale may facilitate the development of nanoscale ferroelectric devices.

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