Layered complex oxides offer an unusually rich materials platform for emergent phenomena through many built-in design knobs such as varied topologies, chemical ordering schemes and geometric tuning of the structure. A multitude of polar phases are predicted to compete in Ruddlesden-Popper (RP), An+1BnO3n+1, thin films by tuning layer dimension (n) and strain; however, direct atomic-scale evidence for such competing states is currently absent. Using aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy with sub-Ångstrom resolution in Srn+1TinO3n+1 thin films, we demonstrate the coexistence of antiferroelectric, ferroelectric and new ordered and low-symmetry phases. We also directly image the atomic rumpling of the rock salt layer, a critical feature in RP structures that is responsible for the competing phases; exceptional quantitative agreement between electron microscopy and density functional theory is demonstrated. The study shows that layered topologies can enable multifunctionality through highly competitive phases exhibiting diverse phenomena in a single structure.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Chemistry
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
- General Physics and Astronomy