Multiferroic BiFeO3 films: Domain structure and polarization dynamics

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Phase Transitions, Volume 79, Number 12, p.991-1017 (2006)


BiFeO3 simultaneously shows antiferromagnetic and ferroelectric order with high transition temperatures, i.e. TN 370C and TC 830C, respectively. Naturally, it has been inferred that coupling exists between the magnetic and ferroelectric order parameters like in the multiferroic manganites with low transition temperatures. A thorough investigation of the ferroelectric properties of BiFeO3 is therefore in line with the understanding of its multiferroic behaviour. Here, we review the ferroelectric properties of epitaxial (001) oriented BiFeO3 films grown by different techniques on several substrates. Structural characterization along with ferroelectric quantitative analysis point at the high quality of the films. Emphasis is put on identifying the various polarization variants and domain dynamics under an applied bias. In these studies, to unravel the intricate ferroelectric domain structure, piezo-force microscopy scans have been taken along the principal crystallographic directions. Two cases have been analysed. First, a 600 nm thick film grown on SrTiO3 (001) with a thin SrRuO3 underlayer exhibits a mosaic domain pattern due to the presence of both up and down polarization domains. Mainly four polarization domains have been identified in this case, which correspond to two structural domains. Second, epitaxial BiFeO3 films grown on DyScO3 (110) and miscut SrTiO3 (001) with a thin SrRuO3 underlayer show stripe patterns, with mainly two down polarization domains. A single structural domain of orthorhombic SrRuO3 epitaxial underlayer induces this changes in the domain structure of BiFeO3. The suppression of up domains by changing the substrate conditions prove the possibility of ferroelectric domain engineering. The three possible polarization switching mechanisms, namely 71 and 109 rotations, as well as 180 rotation, have been identified by following the domain dynamics in a two-domain epitaxial BiFeO3 film. Interestingly, 180 polarization reversal seems to be the most favorable switching mechanism in epitaxial films under an applied bias along [001]. The observation of both ferroelastic and ferroelectric switching processes open exciting possibilities for the optimization of BiFeO3's ferroelectric properties and investigation of magnetoelectric coupling in epitaxial films. A recent photoemission study using linearly polarized X-rays proved the coupling between the ferroelectric and antiferromagnetic domain structures.


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