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Exploring leakage in dielectric films via automated experiments in scanning probe microscopy...

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Applied Physics Letters
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Electronic conduction pathways in dielectric thin films are explored using automated experiments in scanning probe microscopy (SPM). Here, we use large field of view scanning to identify the position of localized conductive spots and develop an SPM workflow to probe their dynamic behavior at higher spatial resolution as a function of time, voltage, and scanning process in an automated fashion. Using this approach, we observe the variable behaviors of the conductive spots in a 20-nm-thick ferroelectric Hf0.54Zr0.48O2 film, where conductive spots disappear and reappear during continuous scanning. There are also fresh conductive spots that develop during scanning. The automated workflow is universal and can be integrated into a wide range of microscopy techniques, including SPM, electron microscopy, optical microscopy, and chemical imaging.