A key development toward new electronic devices integrating memory and processing capabilities could be based on the electric control of the spin texture of charge carriers in semiconductors. In that respect, GeTe has been recently recognized as a promising ferroelectric Rashba semiconductor, with giant spin splitting of the band structure, due to the inversion symmetry breaking arising from ferroelectric polarization. Here, we address the temperature dependence of the ferroelectric structure of GeTe thin films grown on Si(111). We demonstrate the hysteretic behavior of the ferroelectric domain density upon heating/cooling cycles by low energy electron microscopy. This behavior is associated with an abnormal evolution of the GeTe lattice parameter as shown by x-ray diffraction. We explain these thermomechanical phenomena by a large difference of thermal expansion coefficients between the film and the substrate and to the pinning of the GeTe/Si interface. The accumulated elastic energy by the GeTe thin film during sample cooling is released by the formation of a-nanodomains with in-plane ferroelectric polarization components.

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