Ferroelectrics are being increasingly called upon for electronic devices in extreme environments. Device performance and energy efficiency is highly correlated to clock frequency, operational voltage, and resistive loss. To increase performance it is common to engineer ferroelectric domain structure with highly-correlated electrical and elastic coupling that elicit fast and efficient collective switching. Designing domain structures with advantageous properties is difficult because the mechanisms involved in collective switching are poorly understood and difficult to investigate. Collective switching is a hierarchical process where the nano- and mesoscale responses control the macroscopic properties. Using chemical solution synthesis, epitaxially nearly-relaxed (100) BaTiO3 films are synthesized. Thermal strain induces a strongly-correlated domain structure with alternating domains of polarization along the  and  in-plane axes and 90° domain walls along the  or [01 (Formula presented.)] directions. Simultaneous capacitance–voltage measurements and band-excitation piezoresponse force microscopy revealed strong collective switching behavior. Using a deep convolutional autoencoder, hierarchical switching is automatically tracked and the switching pathway is identified. The collective switching velocities are calculated to be ≈500 cm s−1 at 5 V (7 kV cm−1), orders-of-magnitude faster than expected. These combinations of properties are promising for high-speed tunable dielectrics and low-voltage ferroelectric memories and logic.
- Barium titanate
- Capacitive hysteresis
- Ferroelectric switching
- Neural network
- Piezoresponse force microscopy