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Defect redistribution along grain boundaries in SrTiO3 by externally applied electric fields


During thermal annealing at 1425 °C nominal electric field strengths of 50 V/mm and 150 V/mm were applied along the grain boundary planes of a near 45° (100) twist grain boundary in SrTiO3. Electron microscopy characterization revealed interface expansions near the positive electrode around 0.8 nm for either field strength. While the interface width decreased to roughly 0.4 nm after annealing at 50 V/mm, the higher field strength caused decomposition of the boundary structure close to the negative electrode. Electron energy-loss and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopies demonstrated an increased degree of oxygen sublattice distortion at the negative electrode side, and enhanced concentrations of Ti3+ and Ti2+ compared to bulk for both single crystals and bicrystals annealed with an external electric field, respectively. Oxygen migration due to the applied electric field causes the observed alteration of grain boundary structures. At sufficiently high field strength the agglomeration of anion vacancies may lead to the decomposition of the grain boundary.

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