Impact of tensile strain on the oxygen vacancy migration in SrTiO3: Density functional theory calculations

Raied AL-Hamadany, JP Goss, PR Briddon, Shahin A Mojarad, AG O'Neill and MJ Rayson
Journal of Applied Physics

Strontium titanate is a promising dielectric material for device applications including capacitors and gate dielectrics. However, oxygen vacancies, which are inevitable donor defects mobile under bias at room temperature, lead to undesirable leakage current in SrTiO3 thin films. Epitaxially grown SrTiO3 on lattice mismatched substrates leads to strained SrTiO3, inducing structural phase transitions from a cubosymmetric non-ferroelectric geometry to tetragonal and orthorhombic structures, depending upon the sign of the strain. In this study, density functional calculations have been performed to determine the impact of isotropic biaxial tensile strain in a (001) plane upon the phase of SrTiO3 and the activation energy for the migration of oxygen vacancies in such strained SrTiO3. The phase transition of the host material yields anisotropy in oxygen vacancy diffusion for diffusion within and between planes parallel to the strain. We found a general reduction in the barrier for diffusion within and normal to the plane of tensile strain. The inter-plane diffusion barrier reduces up to 25% at high values of strain. The variation in the barrier corresponding to in-plane diffusion is smaller in comparison to inter-plane diffusion. Finally, we reflect upon how the interplay between lattice strain with native defects plays a crucial role in the conduction mechanism of thin film, strained SrTiO3.

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