Flexoelectricity is an electromechanical coupling between electrical polarization and a strain gradient 1 that enables mechanical manipulation of polarization without applying an electrical bias 2,3 . Recently, flexoelectricity was directly demonstrated by mechanically switching the out-of-plane polarization of a uniaxial system with a scanning probe microscope tip 3,4 . However, the successful application of flexoelectricity in low-symmetry multiaxial ferroelectrics and therefore active manipulation of multiple domains via flexoelectricity have not yet been achieved. Here, we demonstrate that the symmetry-breaking flexoelectricity offers a powerful route for the selective control of multiple domain switching pathways in multiaxial ferroelectric materials. Specifically, we use a trailing flexoelectric field that is created by the motion of a mechanically loaded scanning probe microscope tip. By controlling the SPM scan direction, we can deterministically select either stable 71° ferroelastic switching or 180° ferroelectric switching in a multiferroic magnetoelectric BiFeO3 thin film. Phase-field simulations reveal that the amplified in-plane trailing flexoelectric field is essential for this domain engineering. Moreover, we show that mechanically switched domains have a good retention property. This work opens a new avenue for the deterministic selection of nanoscale ferroelectric domains in low-symmetry materials for non-volatile magnetoelectric devices and multilevel data storage.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
- Biomedical Engineering
- Materials Science(all)
- Condensed Matter Physics
- Electrical and Electronic Engineering