Due to the importance of ferroelectric and high-permittivity perovskite thin films for a wide range of applications, there has been extensive research devoted to understanding the mechanisms responsible for the degradation observed with time, temperature, and/or external field stress. The three most important degradation phenomena for ferroelectric materials such as Pb(Zr, Ti)O3 (PZT) and BaTiO3 are ferroelectric fatigue, ferro-electric aging, and resistance degradation. Ferroelectric fatigue is the loss of switchable polarization by repeated polarization reversals. Ferroelectric aging is characterized by a spontaneous change with time in the polarization-voltage (P-V) response. Resistance degradation is a deterioration of the insulating properties of a dielectric under direct-current (dc) bias and elevated temperature.
These degradation processes ultimately limit the lifetime and reliability of devices that use ferroelectric and high-permittivity perovskite dielectrics. Fatigue and aging lead to reliability concerns for electronic (nonvolatile memories), piezo-electric, electro-optic, and pyroelectric applications. Likewise resistance degradation typically limits the lifetime of ceramic capacitors and high-dielectric constant thin films such as (Ba, Sr)TiO3, which is the principal candidate material for very high-density dynamic random-access memories (DRAMs).
Because of the importance of these degradation processes, it is critical to understand them and to develop methods of eliminating or mitigating their effects. By combining results from studies on thin films with ones on ceramics and single crystals, a consistent picture of the mechanisms involved in these degradation processes is emerging. In this article, we discuss these degradation mechanisms with particular emphasis on the interaction between ferroelectric domains and charge trapping and the role of oxygen vacancies and associated defect dipoles.