A combined study of local structural, electric and ferroelectric properties of SrTiO3/La0.7Sr0.3MnO3/BaTiO3 heterostructures was performed by Piezoresponse Force Microscopy, tunneling Atomic Force Microscopy and Scanning Tunneling Microscopy in the temperature range 30–295 K. The direct correlation of film structure (epitaxial, nanocrystalline or polycrystalline) with local electric and ferroelectric properties was observed. For polycrystalline ferroelectric films the predominant polarization state is defined by the peculiarity of screening the built-in field by positively charged point defects. Based on Scanning Tunneling Spectroscopy results, it was found that a sequent voltage application provokes the modification of local resistive properties related to the redistribution of point defects in thin ferroelectric films. A qualitative analysis of acquired Piezoresponse Force Microscopy, tunneling Atomic Force Microscopy and Scanning Tunneling Microscopy images together with Scanning Tunneling Spectroscopy measurements enabled us to conclude that in the presence of structural defects the competing processes of electron injection, trap filling and the drift of positively charged point defects drives the change of resistive properties of thin films under applied electric field. In this paper, we propose a new approach based on Scanning Tunneling Microscopy/Spectroscopy under ultrahigh vacuum conditions to clarify the influence of point defects on local resistive properties of nanometer-thick ferroelectric films.
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