The dynamics of electrostatic potential barriers at grain boundaries (GBs) in Nb-doped SrTiO3 bicrystals is investigated using a unique combination of bulk and in-situ TEM electrical measurements across isolated GBs, coupled with electron holography under in-situ applied bias. The Nb bulk-doped bicrystals exhibit a positive GB potential that suppresses reversibly under applied bias greater than the nonlinearity threshold in the current-voltage curve. This suppression is interpreted as break-down of the potential barrier to current transport. The results on Nb bulk-doped bicrystals have been compared to those in which Mn has been added as a grain boundary specific dopant. This acceptor doping of the grain boundary causes an appreciable increase in the grain boundary resistance and extension of the nonlinear regime. A preliminary account of static electron holography shows a relatively flat potential profile across the GB, indicating probable compensation of donor states at the GB core with Mn-acceptors. Interestingly, the phase profile under applied bias in this case exhibits a reversible 'dip' at the GB which is interpreted as an activation of GB trap states due to Mn-acceptor dopants trapping extra electrons (the majority charge carriers) at the GB core, inducing a negative GB potential, and diminishing current transport until the threshold bias is exceeded. The synergistic combination of nanoscale TEM measurements coupled with traditional macroscopic electrical measurements is emphasized.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
- Materials Science(all)
- Condensed Matter Physics