Communications Physics

Metastable ferroelectricity driven by depolarization fields in ultrathin Hf0.5Zr0.5O2

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As ferroelectric Hf0.5Zr0.5O2 (HZO) thickness scales below 10 nm, the switching characteristics are severely distorted typically showing an antiferroelectric-like behavior (pinched hysteresis) with reduced remanent polarization. Using Landau-Ginsburg-Devonshire (LGD) theory for the analysis of the experimental results, it is shown here that, in thin (5 nm) HZO, depolarization fields drive the system in a stable paraelectric phase coexisting with a metastable ferroelectric one, which explains the pinched hysteresis. This state of matter resembles a first order ferroelectric above the Curie temperature which is known to result in similar double-loop behavior. Here, based on the analysis of experimental data in the framework of LGD theory, it is reported that charge injection and trapping at pre-existing interface defects during field cycling (“wake-up”) screens the depolarization field stabilizing ferroelectricity. It is found in particular that a sufficiently large energy density of interface states is beneficial for the recovery of fully open ferroelectric loops.