Local piezoresponse hysteresis loops were systematically studied on the surface of ferroelectric thin films of BiFeO3 grown on SrRuO3 and La0.7Sr0.3MnO3 electrodes and compared between ultrahigh vacuum and ambient environment. The loops on all the samples exhibited characteristic asymmetry manifested in the difference of the piezoresponse slope following local domain nucleation. Spatially resolved mapping has revealed that the asymmetry is strongly correlated with the random-field disorder inherent in the films and is not affected by the random-bond disorder component. The asymmetry thus originates from electrostatic disorder within the film, which allows using it as a unique signature of single defects or defect clusters. The electrostatic effects due to the measurement environment also contribute to the total asymmetry of the piezoresponse loop, albeit with a much smaller magnitude compared to local defects.
Maksymovych, P., Balke, N., Jesse, S., Huijben, M., Ramesh, R., Baddorf, A. P., & Kalinin, S. V. (2009). Defect-induced asymmetry of local hysteresis loops on BiFeO3 surfaces. Journal of materials science, 44(19), 5095-5101. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10853-009-3697-z