Coupling of electrical and mechanical switching in nanoscale ferroelectrics

Ye Cao, Qian Li, Long Qing Chen, Sergei V. Kalinin

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21 Scopus citations


While electric field induced ferroelectric switching has been extensively studied and broadly utilized, pure mechanical switching via flexoelectric effect has recently opened up an alternative method for domain writing due to their highly localized, electrically erasable and electric damage free characteristics. Thus far, few studies have been made on the coupling effect of electro-mechanical switching in ferroelectric materials, likely due to the experimental difficulty in the accurate definition of the tip-surface contact area and in the identification of mechanical contribution from electrical effect. Here, we employed self-consistent phase-field modeling to investigate the bi-polar switching behavior of (001) oriented Pb(Zr0.2Ti0.8)O3 thin film under concurrent electric and strain field created via a piezoresponse force microscope probe. By separating the effects from electric field, homogeneous strain and strain gradient, we revealed that the homogeneous strain suppresses the spontaneous polarization and accordingly increases the coercive field, and the strain gradient favors unipolar switching and inhibit it in the reverse direction, thus causing lateral offset of the hysteresis loop. The uncertainty of flexoelectric coefficients and the influence of flexocoupling coefficients on switching have also been discussed. Our study could necessitate further understanding of the electric, piezoelectric, and flexoelectric contribution to the switching behavior in nanoscale ferroelectric oxides.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number202905
JournalApplied Physics Letters
Issue number20
StatePublished - Nov 16 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)


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