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Real-Time Observation of Local Strain Effects on Nonvolatile Ferroelectric Memory Storage Mechanisms

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We use in situ transmission electron microscopy to directly observe, at high temporal and spatial resolution, the interaction of ferroelectric domains and dislocation networks within BiFeO3 thin films. The experimental observations are compared with a phase field model constructed to simulate the dynamics of domains in the presence of dislocations and their resulting strain fields. We demonstrate that a global network of misfit dislocations at the film-substrate interface can act as nucleation sites and slow down domain propagation in the vicinity of the dislocations. Networks of individual threading dislocations emanating from the film-electrode interface play a more dramatic role in pinning domain motion. These dislocations may be responsible for the domain behavior in ferroelectric thin-film devices deviating from conventional Kolmogorov-Avrami-Ishibashi dynamics toward a Nucleation Limited Switching model.

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