The coupling between electrical and mechanical phenomena is a ubiquitous feature of many information and energy storage materials and devices. In addition to involvement in performance and degradation mechanisms, electromechanical effects underpin a broad spectrum of nanoscale imaging and spectroscopies including piezoresponse force and electrochemical strain microscopies. Traditionally, these studies are conducted under ambient conditions. However, applications related to imaging energy storage and electrophysiological phenomena require operation in a liquid phase and therefore the development of electromechanical probing techniques suitable to liquid environments. Due to the relative high conductivity of most liquids and liquid decomposition at low voltages, the transfer of characterization techniques from ambient to liquid is not straightforward. Here we present a detailed study of ferroelectric domain imaging and manipulation in thin film BiFeO 3 using piezoresponse force microscopy in liquid environments as model systems for electromechanical phenomena in general. We explore the use of contact resonance enhancement and the application of multifrequency excitation and detection principles to overcome the experimental problems introduced by a liquid environment. Understanding electromechanical sample characterization in liquid is a key aspect not only for ferroelectric oxides but also for biological and electrochemical sample systems.
- scanning probe microscopy