Polarization fatigue, i.e., the loss of polarization of ferroelectric capacitors upon field cycling, has been widely discussed as an interface related effect. However, mechanism(s) behind the development of fatigue have not been fully identified. Here, we study the fatigue mechanisms in Pt/PbZr0.52Ti0.48O3/SrRuO3 (Pt/PZT/SRO) capacitors in which all layers are fabricated by pulsed laser deposition without breaking the vacuum. With scanning transmission electron microscopy, we observed that in the fatigued capacitor, the Pt/PZT interface becomes structurally degraded, forming a 5 nm-10 nm thick non-ferroelectric layer of crystalline ZrO2 and diffused Pt grains. We then found that the fatigued capacitors can regain the full initial polarization switching if the externally applied field is increased to at least 10 times the switching field of the pristine capacitor. These findings suggest that polarization fatigue is driven by a two-step mechanism. First, the transient depolarization field that repeatedly appears during the domain switching under field cycling causes decomposition of the metal/ferroelectric interface, resulting in a non-ferroelectric degraded layer. Second, this interfacial non-ferroelectric layer screens the external applied field causing an increase in the coercive field beyond the usually applied maximum field and consequently suppresses the polarization switching in the cycled capacitor. Our work clearly confirms the key role of the electrode/ferroelectric interface in the endurance of ferroelectric-based devices.
|Publication status||Published - 1 Feb 2021|