• piezoresponse force microscopy (PFM);
  • lead-free materials;
  • piezoceramics;
  • relaxors


Piezoresponse force microscopy (PFM) is used to afford insight into the nanoscale electromechanical behavior of lead-free piezoceramics. Materials based on Bi1/2Na1/2TiO3 exhibit high strains mediated by a field-induced phase transition. Using the band excitation technique the initial domain morphology, the poling behavior, the switching behavior, and the time-dependent phase stability in the pseudo-ternary system (1–x)(0.94Bi1/2Na1/2TiO3-0.06BaTiO3)-xK0.5Na0.5NbO3 (0 <= x <= 18 mol%) are revealed. In the base material (x = 0 mol%), macroscopic domains and ferroelectric switching can be induced from the initial relaxor state with sufficiently high electric field, yielding large macroscopic remanent strain and polarization. The addition of KNN increases the threshold field required to induce long range order and decreases the stability thereof. For x = 3 mol% the field-induced domains relax completely, which is also reflected in zero macroscopic remanence. Eventually, no long range order can be induced for x >= 3 mol%. This PFM study provides a novel perspective on the interplay between macroscopic and nanoscopic material properties in bulk lead-free piezoceramics.