Research Papers in Physics and Astronomy


Date of this Version



Published in APPLIED PHYSICS LETTERS 93, 242902 (2008). Copyright © 2008 American Institute of Physics. Used by permission.


Piezoresponse force microscopy (PFM) has been used to study the polarization stability in micrometer size Pb(Zr,Ti)O3 capacitors. It is shown that the top electrode thickness has a profound effect on the equilibrium polarization state of poled capacitors triggering spontaneous polarization backswitching in the absence of an applied electric field and leading to the formation of an abnormal domain pattern. PFM examination of poled capacitors with thick (250 nm) top electrodes reveals domain patterns with the central regions always oriented in the direction opposite to the applied field. It is suggested that the driving force behind the observed effect is a transient response to the residual shear stress created by the top electrode in the poled capacitors during field-induced polarization switching. The proposed mechanism is quantified using finite element ferroelectric phase field modeling. The observed effect provides valuable insight into the polarization retention behavior in micrometer size ferroelectric capacitors.

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