Highly mobile ferroelastic domain walls in compositionally graded ferroelectric thin films.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1038/nmat4567
Domains and domain walls are critical in determining the response of ferroelectrics, and the ability to controllably create, annihilate, or move domains is essential to enable a range of next-generation devices. Whereas electric-field control has been demonstrated for ferroelectric 180° domain walls, similar control of ferroelastic domains has not been achieved. Here, using controlled composition and strain gradients, we demonstrate deterministic control of ferroelastic domains that are rendered highly mobile in a controlled and reversible manner. Through a combination of thin-film growth, transmission-electron-microscopy-based nanobeam diffraction and nanoscale band-excitation switching spectroscopy, we show that strain gradients in compositionally graded PbZr1-xTixO3 heterostructures stabilize needle-like ferroelastic domains that terminate inside the film. These needle-like domains are highly labile in the out-of-plane direction under applied electric fields, producing a locally enhanced piezoresponse. This work demonstrates the efficacy of novel modes of epitaxy in providing new modalities of domain engineering and potential for as-yet-unrealized nanoscale functional devices.