HfO2-based ferroelectrics have dramatically changed the application perspectives of polarization-switching materials for information processing and storage. Their CMOS compatibility and preservation of high reversible polarization down to a few nanometer thickness make them attractive for various device concepts including non-volatile memories and negative-capacitance-enhanced steep-slope transistors. In the context of these applications, the long-standing discussion of intrinsic (thermodynamic) or extrinsic nuclei-limited switching (NLS) in ferroelectrics has recently gained importance. In particular, the negative capacitance effect that is formally described by the Landau–Ginzburg–Devonshire formalism implies the intrinsic polarization switching driven by the thermodynamic coercive field. On the other hand, recent studies reported the nucleation-limited extrinsic switching, which does not result in the hysteresis-free negative capacitance effect. Here, we analyze the polarization response in the nanometer scale on the ferroelectric/dielectric bilayer where the negative capacitance has been previously demonstrated. Our analysis of the two limiting cases of quasi-static switching and the earlier reported ultra-fast polarization response supports the intrinsic polarization reversal scenario. The compatibility of this mechanism with the previously reported NLS region-by-region switching with remarkably low domain wall velocity is addressed. Our results confirm the usability of CMOS-compatible polycrystalline HZO ferroelectric films for gates operating in the negative-capacitance regime. Furthermore, they point towards possible solutions for optimizing their switching properties for applications including memories.

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