Technical Feature

Technical Feature

Piezoresponse Force Microscopy: A Window into Electromechanical Behavior at the Nanoscale

D.A. Bonnell, S.V. Kalinin, A.L. Kholkin and A. Gruverman


Piezoresponse force microscopy (PFM) is a powerful method widely used for nanoscale studies of the electromechanical coupling effect in various materials systems. Here, we review recent progress in this field that demonstrates great potential of PFM for the investigation of static and dynamic properties of ferroelectric domains, nanofabrication and lithography, local functional control, and structural imaging in a variety of inorganic and organic materials, including piezoelectrics, semiconductors, polymers, biomolecules, and biological systems. Future pathways for PFM application in high-density data storage, nanofabrication, and spectroscopy are discussed.

Dawn Bonnell can be reached at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA; tel. 215–898–6231; fax 215–746–3204; and e-mail

Bonnell is a trustee professor and director of the Nano/Bio Interface Center at the University of Pennsylvania. She received her PhD degree from the University of Michigan, was a Fulbright scholar to the Max Planck Institute in Stuttgart, and worked at IBM Thomas Watson Research Center. Bonnell has authored or co-authored more than 190 papers, edited several books, and has been recognized by the Presidential Young Investigators Award, the Ross Coffin Purdy Award, the Staudinger/Durrer Medal from ETH Zurich, the Heilmeier Faculty Research Award, and several distinguished lectureships. She is a past president of the American Vacuum Society (AVS), has served on the governing board of the American Institute of Physics, is a past vice president of the American Ceramic Society, and is a fellow of the American Ceramic Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and AVS.

Sergei V. Kalinin, Guest Editor for this issue of MRS Bulletin, can be reached at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN 37922, USA; tel. 865-241-0236; e-mail

Kalinin is a research staff member at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and co-theme leader for Scanning Probe Microscopy at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences at ORNL. He also is adjunct associate professor at the Department of Materials Sciences and Engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The focus of his current research is the interplay between electromechanical, transport, and mechanical phenomena in inorganic and biological systems on the nanoand ultimately molecular scales, as well as development of novel scanning probe microscopy (SPM) methods. Kalinin is the author of more than 150 scientific papers and several patents on different aspects of SPM and ferroelectric materials applications. During his academic career, Kalinin has been the recipient of the Robert L. Coble (2009) and Ross Coffin Purdy (2003) awards of the American Ceramics Society, as well as the AVS Peter Mark Memorial Award (2008) and R&D100 Award for Band Excitation SPM (2008). Additionally, Kalinin is a recipient of the Wigner Fellowship of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (2002), the ORNL Director Team Award (2006), and the ORNL Early Career Accomplishment Award for Science and Technology (2005).

Andrei L. Kholkin, Guest Editor for this issue of MRS Bulletin, can be reached at the University of Aveiro, Portugal; tel. 351–234–401464; fax 351–234–401470; and e-mail

Kholkin is a research coordinator in the Department of Ceramics and Glass Engineering at the Center for Research in Ceramic and Composite Materials (CICECO) of the University of Aveiro, Portugal, where he leads a group developing multifunctional materials (ferroelectrics, multiferroics, polymer and bio-organic piezoelectrics) and scanning probe microscopy techniques. He received his PhD degree in physics from the Ioffe Physico-Technical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg, Russia, under the supervision of Professor G.A. Smolenskii. He subsequently held research positions at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Switzerland, and at Rutgers University. Kholkin is a co-author of more than 260 technical publications in this area, including 10 book chapters. He has co-edited several special issues on ferro-electricity and serves as an associate editor for the IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control. He is a member of the Ferroelectric Committee of IEEE and was a recipient of the Excellency Award from the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology in 2004. In addition, he has successfully organized several conferences on ferroelectrics and related materials and has served as a project reviewer for various international grant agencies.

Alexei Gruverman can be reached at the University of NebraskaLincoln, 68588–0111, USA; e-mail

Gruverman is an associate professor at the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of NebraskaLincoln (UNL). Prior to joining UNL, he held a research professorship position at North Carolina State University and research scientist positions at Sony Corporation, Yokohama, Japan, and at the Joint Research Center for Atom Technology in Tsukuba, Japan. While working in Japan, he pioneered the scanning probe microscopy (SPM)-based method for nondestructive highresolution imaging of ferroelectric domains in thin films and memory devicesan approach now known as piezoresponse force microscopy (PFM). Gruverman's research interests are in the field of SPM of functional materials, nanoscale phenomena in ferroelectrics, nonvolatile information storage technologies, and electrical/mechanical phenomena in biological systems. He has published more than 80 papers, a number of book chapters and review articles, presented more than 60 communications in scientific meetings, and has edited two books. He is a recipient of the Ikeda Memorial Foundation Award (2004) for his contribution to nanoscale studies of ferroelectrics.