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Polycrystalline Perovskite Ferroelectrics: Microstructural Origins of the Macroscale Electromechanical Response


Tan, Wei Lin (2019) Polycrystalline Perovskite Ferroelectrics: Microstructural Origins of the Macroscale Electromechanical Response. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/J2W5-XA95.


Ferroelectrics are a class of electromechanically coupled materials which possess an electric dipole polarization that can be permanently reoriented by applied electric and mechanical stress fields. Their reorientable polarization results in complex, nano- to micrometer scale domain structures whose evolution under electric and mechanical stress fields alters the material's overall time-dependent electrical and viscoelastic properties. To understand domain structure evolution, in-situ microscopy of domain switching processes in ferroelectric thin films, single crystals and nanoparticles have been well-studied in the past. However, domain evolution in bulk polycrystals is less well understood as their local stress and electric field environment differs from thin specimens.

This work seeks to understand ferroelectric domain evolution in bulk ferroelectric perovskite polycrystals using a combination of a recently-developed electromechanical characterization technique, Broadband Electromechanical Spectroscopy (BES), and theoretical-computational predictions. A constitutive material model for polycrystalline ferroelectrics is first developed and applied to simulate barium titanate single crystals and polycrystals. Simulated polarization, strain and energy dissipation hysteresis curves show good qualitative agreement to experimental data and demonstrate that macroscale properties can be efficiently predicted from microscale physics to some extent.

The microstructural origins of fatigue behavior in bulk polycrystalline lead zirconate titanate (PZT) are investigated using a combination of macroscale electrical and viscoelastic property characterization via BES, and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) imaging of microstructure. The evolution of electrical and viscoelastic properties during bipolar electrical fatigue show differences in the effects of electrical vs. mechanical fatigue processes, and the latter is verified through SEM imaging and measurement of microcracks.

Finally, the same electromechanical BES characterizations are performed on specimens of bulk polycrystalline barium titanate (BT). Results reveal stark qualitative differences in electrical and viscoelastic responses from PZT despite both materials being perovskite ferroelectrics. A growth vs. nucleation hypothesis is proposed to explain the observed results, guided by preliminary imaging of domain microstructure.

In summary, the BES is a powerful tool to elucidate domain switching processes within bulk ferroelectric specimens, while a computational method which bridges the micro- and macroscale further adds to the diagnostic toolbox of understanding bulk ferroelectric domain switching mechanisms. This opens the pathway to designing future applications which make use of the unique electrical and viscoelastic properties of ferroelectric switching.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:ferroelectrics, fatigue, ceramics, lead zirconate titanate, barium titanate, electromechanical, domain evolution
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Materials Science
Minor Option:Geochemistry
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Kochmann, Dennis M. (advisor)
  • Faber, Katherine T. (co-advisor)
Thesis Committee:
  • Bhattacharya, Kaushik (chair)
  • Kochmann, Dennis M.
  • Faber, Katherine T.
  • Rossman, George Robert
Defense Date:16 May 2019
Non-Caltech Author Email:weilin.jade.tan (AT)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
DSO National LaboratoriesUNSPECIFIED
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:06082019-133053987
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription for ch. 2 for ch. 3
Tan, Wei Lin0000-0001-6855-8340
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:11727
Deposited By: Wei Lin Tan
Deposited On:10 Jun 2019 23:01
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 00:26

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