Controlled creation and displacement of charged domain walls in ferroelectric thin films
Charged domain walls in ferroelectric materials are of high interest due to their potential use in nanoelectronic devices. While previous approaches have utilized complex scanning probe techniques or frustrative poling here we show the creation of charged domain walls in ferroelectric thin films during simple polarization switching using either a conductive probe tip or patterned top electrodes. We demonstrate that ferroelectric switching is accompanied - without exception - by the appearance of charged domain walls and that these walls can be displaced and erased reliably. We ascertain from a combination of scanning probe microscopy, transmission electron microscopy and phase field simulations that creation of charged domain walls is a by-product of, and as such is always coupled to, ferroelectric switching. This is due to the (110) orientation of the tetragonal (Pb, Sr) TiO3 thin films and the crucial role played by the limited conduction of the LSMO bottom electrode layer used in this study. This work highlights that charged domain walls, far from being exotic, unstable structures, as might have been assumed previously, can be robust, stable easily-controlled features in ferroelectric thin films.