We have studied the ferroelectric domains in (001) BiFeO3 (BFO) films patterned into mesas with various aspect ratios, using angle-resolved piezoresponse force microscope (AR-PFM), which can image the in-plane polarization component with an angular resolution of 30°. We observed not only stable polarization variants, but also meta-stable polarization variants, which can reduce the charge accumulated at domain boundaries. We considered the number of neighboring domains that are in contact, in order to analyze the complexity of the ferroelectric domain structure. Comparison of the ferroelectric domains from the patterned and unpatterned regions showed that the elastic relaxation induced by removal of the film surrounding the mesas led to a reduction of the average number of neighboring domains, indicative of a decrease in domain complexity. We also found that the rectangular BFO patterns with high aspect ratio had a simpler domain configuration and enhanced piezoelectric characteristics than square-shaped mesas. Manipulation of the ferroelectric domains by controlling the aspect ratio of the patterned BFO thin film mesas can be useful for nanoelectronic applications.
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