Local control of improper ferroelectric domains in YMnO 3
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Improper ferroelectrics are described by two order parameters: a primary one, driving a transition to long-range distortive, magnetic, or otherwise nonelectric order, and the electric polarization, which is induced by the primary order parameter as a secondary, complementary effect. Using low-temperature scanning probe microscopy, we show that improper ferroelectric domains in YMnO3 can be locally switched by electric field poling. However, subsequent temperature changes restore the as-grown domain structure as determined by the primary lattice distortion. The backswitching is explained by uncompensated bound charges occurring at the newly written domain walls due to the lack of mobile screening charges at low temperature. Thus, the polarization of improper ferroelectrics is in many ways subject to the same electrostatics as in their proper counterparts, yet complemented by additional functionalities arising from the primary order parameter. Tailoring the complex interplay between primary order parameter, polarization, and electrostatics is therefore likely to result in novel functionalities specific to improper ferroelectrics.