Long-range symmetry breaking in embedded ferroelectrics
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The characteristic functionality of ferroelectric materials is due to the symmetry of their crystalline structure. As such, ferroelectrics lend themselves to design approaches that manipulate this structural symmetry by introducing extrinsic strain. Using in situ dark-field X-ray microscopy to map lattice distortions around deeply embedded domain walls and grain boundaries in BaTiO3, we reveal that symmetry-breaking strain fields extend up to several micrometres from domain walls. As this exceeds the average domain width, no part of the material is elastically relaxed, and symmetry is universally broken. Such extrinsic strains are pivotal in defining the local properties and self-organization of embedded domain walls, and must be accounted for by emerging computational approaches to material design.