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Kinetic control of tunable multi-state switching in ferroelectric thin films


Deterministic creation of multiple ferroelectric states with intermediate values of polarization remains challenging due to the inherent bi-stability of ferroelectric switching. Here we show the ability to select any desired intermediate polarization value via control of the switching pathway in (111)-oriented PbZr0.2Ti0.8O3 films. Such switching phenomena are driven by kinetic control of the volume fraction of two geometrically different domain structures which are generated by two distinct switching pathways: one direct, bipolar-like switching and another multi-step switching process with the formation of a thermodynamically-stable intermediate twinning structure. Such control of switching pathways is enabled by the competition between elastic and electrostatic energies which favors different types of ferroelastic switching that can occur. Overall, our work demonstrates an alternative approach that transcends the inherent bi-stability of ferroelectrics to create non-volatile, deterministic, and repeatedly obtainable multi-state polarization without compromising other important properties, and holds promise for non-volatile multi-state functional applications.

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