Donald Evans

University of Augsburg
Fundamentals of piezo-response force microscopy: from basic concepts to the state-of-the-art
In our age of electronics and electronic materials, much state-of-the-art research focuses on ferroelectrics, materials that display permanent internal electric fields. One driving force behind this research is the diverse range of potential applications. Ferroelectrics provide opportunities to both enhance existing technology (such as computer memory, capacitors, sensors, optical devices etc) but also to provide next generation applications, like biomedical implants, neuromorphic memories, negative capacitance devices, and domain wall nanoelectronics. For most of these applications, control and knowledge of the orientation of the ferroelectric polarisation vector is critical, with several experimental techniques to image the polarisation now established. Over the last two decades, piezo-response force microscopy (PFM) has emerged as, arguably, the most prolific tool for imaging these microstructures. This success is partly because of its nanoscale resolutions, straightforward implementation on most scanning probe microscopy setups, the ability to image both bulk and thin film sample surfaces in ambient conditions, and minimal sample preparation requirements. Despite this proliferation of the PFM technique, and the relative ease with which domain maps can be obtained, interpretation of the data is seldom straightforward. This tutorial aims to help the participants develop an intuitive understanding of what PFM is, how to use it, and how to optimise it for the collection and interpretation of high-quality images. To achieve this, we will start by building an understanding of what ferro-, piezo and pyro- electrics are, using a cartoon material system made up of a few atoms, to illustrate the key concepts. Before discussing how PFM can detect the polarisation vectors in these systems, and the operational principles it uses to make these maps. From these basic concepts, we will move towards the latest research in the field, including how the principles of PFM can be leveraged to image non-polar materials. The tutorial will finish with methodologies and tips on practical PFM usage, best practices, and pitfalls to be avoided. To foster the participants’ understanding, this tutorial aims to be interactive.
Presenter Bio

Impact at a glance (from google scholar):

Most cited paper: 220 citations. Total peer-reviewed papers: 26, including 4 in Nature family journals (2 first author, Nat. Mater. and Nat. Commun.). In addition, 2 first author book chapters, 1 first author review papers, 1 patent, 1 monograph. 8 Invited talks and tutorials.

Research positions:

2021 - 2023     Individual Fellowship, University of Augsburg. Using SPM techniques to create and control advanced correlated phenomena in functional materials; associated with Prof. I. Kézsmárki’s group.

2020 - 2021     Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Augsburg. Imaging and investigating microstructural properties in highly correlated low temperatures systems; in the team of Priv.-Doz. Dr. S. Krohns

2017 - 2020     Postdoctoral Researcher, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). Creating, controlling, and imaging low dimensional defects in improper-ferroelectrics; in the group of Prof. D. Meier.

2015 - 2017     Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Cambridge. Understand the (an)elastic properties of correlated systems, with a focus on their magnetoelastic coupling; in the group of Prof. M. A. Carpenter.

2010 - 2014     Ph.D Queen’s University Belfast. Investigating room temperature magnetoelectric multiferroics; in the group of Prof. J. M. Gregg.


2010 - 2014     PhD, Solid State Physics, Queen’s University Belfast. In the group of Prof. J. M. Gregg.

2009 - 2010     Master of Science, Experimental and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge: Project on quantum critical ferroelectrics with Prof. J. F. Scott.

2006 - 2009    Master of Arts, Natural Science, University of Cambridge: Summer research project: with Prof. M. Padgett at Glasgow University.

Schooling:       Home educated.

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