|Piezoelectric materials find use as actuators and sensors in automotive, aerospace and other related industries. Automotive applications such as fuel injection nozzles and engine health monitoring systems require operating temperatures as high as 300-500 oC. The commercially used piezoelectric material PbZr1-xTixO3 (PZT) is limited to operating temperatures as low as 200 oC due to the temperature induced depolarization effects. PZT, in the undoped state exhibits a piezoelectric coefficient (d33) of 223 pC/N and ferroelectric-paraelectric transition temperature (Tc) of 386 oC. The enhanced properties of PZT occur at a region between the tetragonal and rhombohedral phases, called the Morphotropic Phase Boundary (MPB). Therefore, search for new materials with higher thermal stability and better sensing capabilities were focused on systems that exhibit a PZT-like MPB. This led to the discovery of (x)BiScO3-(1-x)PbTiO3 (BSPT), which exhibits an MPB with enhanced Tc (450 oC) and exceptionally high piezoelectric response (d33 = 460 pC/N). Theoretical studies have shown that the mechanism of enhanced piezoresponse in ferroelectric systems is related to the anisotropic flattening of the free energy profiles. An alternative view point attributes the anomalous piezoelectric response to the presence of high density of low energy domain walls near an inter-ferroelectric transition.
Diffraction is a versatile tool to study the structural and microstructural changes of ferroelectric systems upon application of electric field. However, characterization of electric field induced structural and microstructural changes is not a trivial task, since in situ electric field dependent diffraction studies almost invariably give diffraction patterns laden with strong preferred orientation effects, due to the tendency of the ferroelectric/ferroelastic domains to align along the field direction. Additionally, diffraction profiles of MPB compositions exhibit severe overlap of Bragg peaks of the coexisting phases, and hence, it is difficult to ascertain with certainty, if the alteration in the intensity profiles upon application of electric field is due to change in phase fraction of the coexisting phases or due to preferred orientation induced in the different phases by the electric field. The characterization of electric field induced phase transformation in MPB systems, has therefore eluded researchers and has been considered of secondary importance, presumably due to the difficulties in unambiguously establishing the structural changes upon application of electric field. In fact, majority of the in situ electric field dependent diffraction studies have been carried out on compositions just outside the MPB range, i.e. on single phase compositions. In such studies, the focus has been mainly on explaining the piezoelectric response in terms of motions of the non-180° domain walls and field induced lattice strains.
In this dissertation, the BSPT system has been systematically investigated with the view to understand the role of different contributing factors to the anomalous piezoelectric response of compositions close to the MPB. Using a comparative in situ electric field dependent diffraction study on a core MPB composition exhibiting highest piezoelectric response and a single phase monoclinic (pseudo-rhombohedral) composition just outside the MPB, it is demonstrated that, inspite of the significantly large domain switching and lattice strain (obtained from peak shifts) in the single phase composition, as compared to the MPB composition, the single phase composition shows considerably low piezoelectric response. This result clearly revealed that the anomalous piezoelectric response of the MPB composition is primarily associated with field induced inter-ferroelectric transformation and the corresponding field induced interphase boundary motion.
A simple strategy has been employed to establish the field induced structural transformation for the MPB compositions, by overcoming the experimental limitation of in situ electric field dependent diffraction studies. The idea stemmed from the fact that, if the specimens for diffraction study can be used in powder form instead of pellet, the problems associated with preferred orientation effects can be eliminated, and the nature of field induced structural changes can be accurately determined. A comparative study of the diffraction profiles from poled (after subjecting the specimen to electric field) and unpoled (before subjecting the specimen to electric field) powders could precisely establish the nature of electric field induced phase transformation for the MPB compositions of BSPT and provided a direct correlation between the electric field induced structural changes and the enhanced piezoelectric response. A new ‘powder poling’ technique was devised, which involves application of electric field to powder form of the specimen. Using this technique, it was possible to study separately, the effect of stress and electric field on the nature of structural transformation. A unique outcome of this study was, it could demonstrate for the first time, analogous nature of the stress and electric field induced structural transformation. A comparative study of the dielectric response of poled and unpoled samples was used to show a counterintuitive phenomenon of field induced decrease in polarization coherence for the MPB compositions. This approach was used to suggest that the criticality associated with the MPB extends beyond the composition boundary conventionally reported in literature based on bulk diffraction techniques (x-ray and neutron powder diffraction). The layout of the dissertation is as follows:
Chapter 1 gives a brief introduction of the fundamental concepts related to ferroelectric materials. The theories that explain the enhanced piezoresponse of MPB based ferroelectric systems have been outlined. Detailed information of the existing literature is presented in the relevant chapters.
Chapter 2 presents the details of the solid state synthesis of BSPT compositions and structural analysis using diffraction studies. The dielectric measurements were used to establish the Tc for the different compositions. The enhanced ferroelectric and piezoelectric properties were observed for the MPB compositions, which were shown to exhibit coexistence of tetragonal and monoclinic phases from structural studies. The critical MPB composition exhibiting highest piezoelectric and ferroelectric properties was established to be x = 0.3725. The thermal stability of the critical MPB composition was established to be 400 oC using ex situ thermal depolarization studies. The common approach of structural analysis in the unpoled state failed to provide a unique relationship between the anomalous piezoelectric response and the structural factors at the MPB, emphasizing the need to characterize these system using electric field dependent structural studies.
Chapter 3 presents the results of in situ electric field dependent diffraction measurements carried out at Argonne National Laboratory, USA. The quasi-static field measurements could successfully quantify the non-180o domain switching fractions and the field induced lattice strains. The changes in the integrated intensities were used to obtain the non-180o domain switching fraction and the shift in peak positions were used to quantify the field induced lattice strains. The in situ studies could successfully explain the macroscopic strain response for the single phase pseudo-rhombohedral (monoclinic) composition on the basis of domain switching mechanisms and field induced lattice strains. The MPB compositions were shown to have additional contributions from interphase boundary motion, resulting from change in phase fraction of the coexisting phases. The results emphasized the need to investigate the electric field induced transformation for MPB compositions, in order to give a comprehensive picture of the various contributions to the macroscopic piezoreponse. While Rietveld analysis could be used to investigate the phase transformation behaviour upon application of electric field, textured diffraction profiles obtained using in situ studies, in addition to the severely overlapping Bragg reflections of the coexisting phases for the MPB compositions hindered reliable estimation of the structural parameters. An alternate approach to investigate the field induced phase transformation is presented in
Chapter 4. The stroboscopic measurements on the MPB composition showed evidence of non-180o domain wall motion even at sub-coercive field amplitudes as low as 0.1 kV/mm.
Chapter 4 presents the results of the ex situ electric field dependent structural study, wherein the diffraction profiles collected from poled powders is compared to that of unpoled powders. The diffraction profiles from the poled powders did not exhibit any field induced crystallographic texture and could successfully be analyzed using Rietveld analysis. High resolution synchrotron diffraction studies (ESRF, France) carried out on closely spaced compositions revealed that, the composition exhibiting the highest piezoelectric response is the one, which exhibits significantly enhanced lattice polarizability of both the coexisting (monoclinic and tetragonal) phases. The enhanced lattice polarizability manifests as significant fraction of the monoclinic phase transforming irreversibly to the tetragonal phase after electric poling. The monoclinic to tetragonal transformation suggested the existence of a
low energy polarization rotation pathway towards the pc direction in the (1 1 0)pc pseudocubic plane of the monoclinic phase. The results are discussed on the basis of the existing theories that explain piezoresponse in MPB systems and are in support of the Polarization rotation model, in favor of a genuine monoclinic phase.
Chapter 5 discusses the ferroelectric-ferroelectric stability of the MPB compositions in response to externally applied stress and electric field independently. Using the newly developed ‘powder poling’ technique, which is based on the concept of exploiting the irreversible structural changes that occur after application of electric field and stress independently, it was possible to ascertain that, both moderate stress and electric field induce identical structural transformation - a fraction of the monoclinic phase transforms irreversibly to the tetragonal phase. The powder poling technique was also used to demonstrate field induced inter-ferroelectric transformation at sub-coercive field amplitudes. In addition, the analysis of the dielectric response before and after poling revealed a counterintuitive
phenomenon of poling induced decrease in the spatial coherence of polarization for compositions around the MPB and not so for compositions far away from the MPB range. Exploiting the greater sensitivity of this technique, it was demonstrated that, the criticality associated with the inter-ferroelectric transition spans a wider composition range than what is conventionally reported in the literature based on bulk x-ray/neutron powder diffraction techniques.
Chapter 6 presents the closure and important conclusions from the present work and summarizes the key results, highlighting the proposed mechanism of enhanced piezoresponse in BSPT. The last part of the chapter deals with suggestions for future work from the ideas evolved in the present study.