Thickness-Dependent Evolution of Piezoresponses and Stripe 90° Domains in (101)-Oriented Ferroelectric PbTiO3 Thin Films.ACS Appl Mater Interfaces 2018; 10(29):24627-24637AA
High-index ferroelectric films as (101)-orientated ones exhibit enhanced dielectric responses, piezoelectric responses, and exotic ferroelectric switching behaviors, which are potential candidates for applications in memories and capacitors. However, possible domain patterns and domain wall structures in (101)-oriented ferroelectric thin films are still elusive, which results in difficulties in understanding the origin and further modulating their special properties. In this work, a series of PbTiO3 (PTO) thin films with 35, 50, 60, and 70 nm in thickness were grown on (101)-oriented (LaAlO3)0.29(SrTa1/2Al1/2O3)0.71 (LSAT(101)) substrates by pulsed laser deposition and investigated by both piezoresponse force microscopy (PFM) and (scanning) transmission electron microscopy ((S)TEM). PFM measurements reveal that periodic stripe domains are dominant in 50 nm thick PTO films. Besides stripe domains, a/ c domains appear in films with thickness more than 60 nm. A thickness-dependent evolution of piezoresponse amplitude indicates that the 50 nm thick PTO films demonstrate a superior piezoresponse. Electron diffraction and contrast analysis clarify that all these (101)-oriented PTO films contain periodic stripe ferroelectric 90° domains. The domain periods increase with the film thickness following Kittel's law. Aberration-corrected STEM imaging reveals that the stripe ferroelectric 90° domains have an alternate arrangement of wide and narrow c domains with polarization directions along  for c1 domains and [001̅] for c2 domains, forming a "head-to-tail" polarization configuration. Further strain analysis reveals that stripe domains have uniform strain distributions and distinct lattice rotations around domain walls. It is proposed that the periodic arrangement of high-density stripe 90° domains in 50 nm thick PTO films is the main contributor to the superior piezoresponse behavior. These results are expected to provide useful information to understand the domain structures in (101)-oriented PTO thin films and thus facilitate further modulation of the properties for potential applications.