Probing the role of single defects on the thermodynamics of electric-field induced phase transitions

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Physical Review Letters, Volume 100, Number 15 (2008)


The kinetics and thermodynamics of first order transitions are universally controlled by defects that act as nucleation sites and pinning centers. Here we demonstrate that defect-domain interactions during polarization reversal processes in ferroelectric materials result in a pronounced fine structure in electromechanical hysteresis loops. Spatially resolved imaging of a single defect center in multiferroic BiFeO3 thin film is achieved, and the defect size and built-in field are determined self-consistently from the single-point spectroscopic measurements and spatially resolved images. This methodology is universal and can be applied to other reversible bias-induced transitions including electrochemical reactions. © 2008 The American Physical Society.


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