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Local Probe Comparison of Ferroelectric Switching Event Statistics in the Creep and Depinning Regimes in Pb(Zr0.2Ti0.8)O3 Thin Films


Ferroelectric materials provide a useful model system to explore the jerky, highly nonlinear dynamics of elastic interfaces in disordered media. The distribution of nanoscale switching event sizes is studied in two Pb(Zr_{0.2}Ti_{0.8})O_{3} thin films with different disorder landscapes using piezoresponse force microscopy. While the switching event statistics show the expected power-law scaling, significant variations in the value of the scaling exponent τ are seen, possibly as a consequence of the different intrinsic disorder landscapes in the samples and of further alterations under high tip bias applied during domain writing. Importantly, higher exponent values (1.98-2.87) are observed when crackling statistics are acquired only for events occurring in the creep regime. The exponents are systematically lowered when all events across both creep and depinning regimes are considered-the first time such a distinction is made in studies of ferroelectric materials. These results show that distinguishing the two regimes is of crucial importance, significantly affecting the exponent value and potentially leading to incorrect assignment of universality class.

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