Scaling of structure and electrical properties in ultrathin epitaxial ferroelectric heterostructures

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Journal of Applied Physics, Volume 100, Number 5 (2006)


Scaling of the structural order parameter, polarization, and electrical properties was investigated in model ultrathin epitaxial SrRuO 3/PbZr 0.2Ti 0.8O 3/SrRuO 3/SrTiO 3 heterostructures. High-resolution transmission electron microscopy images revealed the interfaces to be sharp and fully coherent. Synchrotron x-ray studies show that a high tetragonality (c/a∼1.058) is maintained down to 50 Å thick films, suggesting indirectly that ferroelectricity is fully preserved at such small thicknesses. However, measurement of the switchable polarization (Δ3) using a pulsed probe setup and the out-of-plane piezoelectric response (d 33) revealed a systematic drop from ∼140 μC/cm 2 and 60 pm/V for a 150 Å thick film to 11 μC/cm 2 and 7 pm/V for a 50 Å thick film. This apparent contradiction between the structural measurements and the measured switchable polarization is explained by an increasing presence of a strong depolarization field, which creates a pinned 180° polydomain state for the thinnest films. Existence of a polydomain state is demonstrated by piezoresponse force microscopy images of the ultrathin films. These results suggest that the limit for a ferroelectric memory device may be much larger than the fundamental limit for ferroelectricity. © 2006 American Institute of Physics.


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