Journal of Materials Research


Current-voltage characteristics of ultrafine-grained ferroelectric Pb(Zr, Ti)O3 thin films

H. Hua1 and S.B. Krupanidhia1 p1

a1 Materials Research Laboratory, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802


Room-temperature current-voltage dependence of ultrafine-grained ferroelectric Pb(Zr, Ti)O3 thin films has been investigated. Both strong varistor type behavior and space charge limited conduction (SCLC) were observed. Differences in the current-voltage characteristics are attributed to differences in the nature of the grain boundaries resulting from variations in processing conditions. The strong varistor type behavior is believed to be due to the presence of highly resistive grain boundaries and thus may be termed grain boundary limited conduction (GBLC). A double-depletion-layer barrier model is used to describe the origin of high resistivity of the grain boundaries. It is suggested that the barrier height varies significantly with the applied field due to the nonlinear ferroelectric polarization, and that the barrier is overcome by tunneling at sufficiently high fields. In some other cases, the resistivity of the grain boundaries is comparable to that of the grains, and therefore the intrinsically heterogeneous films degenerate into quasi-homogeneous media, to which the SCLC theory is applicable. As such, a unified grain boundary modeling reconciles different types of conduction mechanisms in the ultrafine-grained ferroelectric thin films. This grain boundary modeling also well accounts for some other dc-related phenomena observed, including abnormal current-voltage dependencies, remanent polarization effect, electrode interface effect, and unusual charging and discharging transients. In addition, many other electrical properties of the ferroelectric films may be better understood by taking the effect of grain boundaries into account.

(Received November 05 1993)

(Accepted February 09 1994)


p1 Also with the Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics.

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