Reversible switching of non-180° ferroelastic domains that largely alters the local strain distribution enables many electromechanical, electromagnetic and electroacoustic applications. However, in thin films, the ferroelastic domain walls are usually believed to be immobile because of the interface clamping and/or dislocation pinning. Here, using in situ and aberration-corrected transmission electron microscopy, we directly observe reversible switching of individual 90° domains in dislocation-free PbTiO3 thin films and uncover the weakened interface clamping effect. We find the tetragonality is suppressed to ∼1.017 while the polarization vectors rotate 45° in the a-domain near the interface. These huge structural distortions at the interface is mainly responsible for the weakened clamping effect and thus the ability to switch ferroelastic domains. The switching is fully reversible (i.e., either electric field or mechanical stress can re-establish the erased domain) regardless of polarization orientation of the c-domain matrix. Phase-field modeling also shows excellent agreement with experimental observations. Our study reveals the mechanism of controllable and reversible ferroelastic domain switching, enabling the design of new actuators, sensors, and electromagnetic devices.
- Atomic structure
- Domain switching
- In situ transmission electron microscopy (TEM)