Characterization of ferroelectric domain walls by scanning electron microscopy
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Ferroelectric domain walls are a completely new type of functional interface, which have the potential to revolutionize nanotechnology. In addition to the emergent phenomena at domain walls, they are spatially mobile and can be injected, positioned, and deleted on demand, giving a new degree of flexibility that is not available at conventional interfaces. Progress in the field is closely linked to the development of modern microscopy methods, which are essential for studying their physical properties at the nanoscale. In this article, we discuss scanning electron microscopy (SEM) as a powerful and highly flexible imaging technique for scale-bridging studies on domain walls, continuously covering nano- to mesoscopic length scales. We review seminal SEM experiments on ferroelectric domains and domain walls, provide practical information on how to visualize them in modern SEMs, and provide a comprehensive overview of the models that have been proposed to explain the contrast formation in SEM. Going beyond basic imaging experiments, recent examples for nano-structuring and correlated microscopy work on ferroelectric domain walls are presented. Other techniques, such as 3D atom probe tomography, are particularly promising and may be combined with SEM in the future to investigate individual domain walls, providing new opportunities for tackling the complex nanoscale physics and defect chemistry at ferroelectric domain walls.